Around the county - and around the nation, too - gun owners have had trouble finding certain cartridges in stock at their local ammunition suppliers.
Shortages of popular calibers, such as .22 cartridges, are visible locally. The Walmart Supercenter at 2020 S. Muskogee Ave. maintains and displays lists of which cartridges are in stock and unavailable.
There is enough scarcity to catch the attention of State Rep. Mike Ritze, R-Tulsa, who addressed queries to Academy and Walmart after hearing complaints from constituents.
“I actually haven’t heard many complaints, except occasionally from gun enthusiasts,” said State Rep. Mike Brown, whose district includes Tahlequah.
“If you have to wait in line for a box of .22 shells, that’s kind of ridiculous. But personally, I haven’t had any problem buying ammunition. The price has certainly gone up recently.”
Theories about the shortage, which dates back more than a year, are myriad. Some believe it is purposely created by the federal government or manufacturers. Others cite an uncomplicated increase in demand.
“It seems if consumption is increasing, the manufacturers would be doing all they can to meet it,” Brown said.
“However, if there is an increase because people are buying all they can, or perhaps target shooters are using hundreds of rounds a week, I can see how that could be a problem for supply.”
Nationally, few retailers or customers assert the government has kept ammunition away from gun owners, but government still is often blamed for the shortage. Many believe the possibility of gun-control legislation has fueled the stockpiling of ammo and runs on supply.
The U.S. government also buys large stocks of ammunition for its own agencies.
Dr. Shannon Grimes, chairman of the Republican Party of Cherokee County, placed blame for the ammunition shortfall squarely on demand.
“It is really that simple,” he said.
“For whatever reasons, more and more people wanted more and more ammunition and free market forces came into play. You can tell people not to buy more ammo than they need, but how much do they need if they don’t know how long the shortage will last?”
Some outlets chose to restrict sales per customer, an idea for which Grimes had little enthusiasm.
“I don’t think people should be limited in how much ammunition they can own,” he said.
“As for rationing supply, I don’t know how effective that can be. If I can only buy so much ammo, what’s to stop me from sending someone in my place and giving them the money to purchase more ammunition for me?”
In a Monday interview with an Oklahoma City television station, Lee Matthews, host of the radio show “Firearms Fridays,” said shortages may be due to fear of gun legislation, but could also be cyclical.
Buyers, fearful of diminished supply, purchase more ammunition than they use and don’t allow stocks to replenish. He believes any supply shortfalls may end in a few months.
“I really believe the shortage has lessened recently and is a mostly resolved issue,” Grimes said.
“It was much worse a year ago. I think there are a couple of reasons supply is improving - people don’t feel as much need to buy extra ammo and manufacturers are open extra hours to meet the demand.”