Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Encoded Ammunition: The Shooting Wire

In today's edition of The Shooting Wire, Jim Shepherd provides his usual excellent comments on the 'encoded ammunition' issue. (Some people, including Senator Obama, think this is a good thing.)

In the middle of an 'editorial' about the HELLER issue, soon to be decided in the Supreme court, Shepherd interrupts himself to talk about Arizona's Ammunition Bill:
One bit of legislation moving through the Arizona legislative process, however, decidedly is unfriendly to gun owners. Arizona House Bill 2833 would require – as early as 2009 – bullet serialization. That’s the process where each round of ammunition is identified and marked with a laser-engraved serial number.

This whole idea is laughable, but the measures keep being introduced around the country to call for individual identifiers on each round of ammo. As Lawrence G. Keane of the NSSF has written, it’s neither practical nor prudent.

"If manufacturers had to comply with bullet serialization, NSSF estimates that it would take almost three weeks to manufacture what is currently made in a single day," says Keane. "This massive reduction in ammunition would translate into substantially lower sales and profitability, and ultimately force major ammunition manufacturers to abandon the market. In turn, there would be a severe shortage of serialized ammunition and all consumers, including federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, would be faced with substantial price increases. Ammunition will go from costing pennies to several dollars per cartridge."

There’s a good reason to believe that anti-gun groups hope that Keane’s words are correct – nothing would stop the firearm industry quicker than exorbitantly expensive ammunition. And a gun without ammo is a poor tool for anything – including self-defense.

(I wish I could provide the link to this editorial, but The Shooting Wire doesn't permalink Shepherd's column. I hope they don't object to my quoting the significant portion here.)

As Shepherd says, this proposal is 'laughable', and 'neither practical nor prudent'. But he does recognize that it is a back-door threat to the free ownership and usage of firearms. That Arizona is not the only state to introduce these bills (there are 12 states which have, so far and to my knowledge, introduced such bills), and that they would increase the cost of ammunition from "...pennies to several dollars per cartridge", are both important considerations.

I'm most grateful that he emphasized the magnitude of the increased cost of ammunition. I have read comments from shooters who seem complacent because they seem to believe that the cost increase would be only a few cents, at most, added to the price of a single cartridge. That kind of complacency is dangerous. And even if it were true, since the best price of 'white box' 9mm (for example) is in the neighborhood of $7.50 per box of 50 (13 cents per round) a two cent increase in price is more than 15% increase in price ... with no increase in value.

What if the cost of encoding ammunition were only $0.87 per round? That would price the same box of ammunition at $50. That would clearly price ammunition out of reach for most of us for all but 'Armageddon' rounds -- which includes ammunition intended for illicit/illegal purposes. It certainly wouldn't be affordable to practice to improve gun-handling skills. USPSA would fold in a New York Minute, because nobody could afford to shoot a match if the match fees were $15 and the ammunition costs were $150.

Think about it. And if you're a resident of one of the 12 states whose legislatures have proposed such a bill ...
Arizona, California, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Washington.
... this might be a good time to call your state legislators and register your objections to being stabbed in the back.

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