Friday, April 26, 2013

Members Of Congress Introduce Legislation Based On Fringe Conspiracy Theory

Two Republican members of Congress introduced legislation on Friday that would limit the amount of ammunition the government is able to purchase at a given time. The bill is a response to far-right conspiracy theories that the government is “stockpiling” ammunition, either to wage a war against the American people or to dry up the ammunition market so average citizens can’t buy bullets.

Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK), and Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) will put forth the Ammunition Management for More Obtainability Act (or, AMMO) Act in both the House and Senate. The bill would require executive branch agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to maintain ammunition levels below the average monthly amounts that the agencies had before Obama took office.

According to a joint press release from Lucas and Inhofe, “The legislation would require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct a report on the purchasing of ammunition by federal agencies, except the Department of Defense, and its affect on the supply of ammunition available to the public”:

“President Obama has been adamant about curbing law-abiding Americans’ access and opportunities to exercise their Second Amendment rights,” said Inhofe. “One way the Obama Administration is able to do this is by limiting what’s available in the market with federal agencies purchasing unnecessary stockpiles of ammunition. As the public learned in a House committee hearing this week, the Department of Homeland Security has two years worth of ammo on hand and allots nearly 1,000 more rounds of ammunition for DHS officers than is used on average by our Army officers. The AMMO Act of 2013 will enforce transparency and accountability of federal agencies’ ammunition supply while also protecting law-abiding citizens access to these resources.”

For members of Congress whose interests have generally aligned with those of gun and ammunition manufacturers, this legislation isn’t smart economics; limiting the ability of the government to buy ammunition will remove a key consumer, drying up demand and causing manufacturers to take a sales hit. Similarly, Lucas and Inhofe’s claim that the government “limit[s] what’s available in the market” if it buys up more ammunition reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of basic economics. If demand for ammunition increases, ammunition producers will increase production in order to meet this demand.

Last week, another Republican representative, Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) brought up the “stockpiling” conspiracy in a hearing with DHS Sec. Janet Napolitano, who said it was “inherently unbelievable that those statements would be made.”

The theory comes from fringe websites like Alex Jones’s Infowars, but have been given a platform by Drudge, a site that commonly peddles unfounded conspiracy theories. Even some far-right sites have taken it upon themselves to debunk the claim that DHS is “stockpiling” weapons. described the theories as “based more on panic than fact.”

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