The Reload Analysis Newsletter

Members’ Newsletter: How Biden Just Made the Ammo Shortage Worse, and the NRA Annual Meeting is in Limbo

I’m not going to lie. This week has been atrocious to witness. The fall of Afghanistan and the bungled pull-out have led to an unbelievable humanitarian crisis. The move has shined some light on how President Biden might proceed on gun policy back home, and I’ve explained my thoughts on that below. But it’s obviously difficult to concentrate on much else besides the Americans and our allies stuck behind Taliban lines.

Of course, that isn’t even the only disaster we’re dealing with. The delta variant of Covid is soaring. Hospitals in several states are being pushed to their limits. The virus claimed more than 1,500 Americans on Friday, with many more likely to come in the weeks ahead.

This, too, is having a big impact on the gun world, which I will also discuss below.

But it’s been a hell of a week following a hell of a year. Things seem to get worse all the time, from our politics to our place in the world. Little improves for long.

I’m not sure when everything will turn around, but I’m still hopeful it will. And I’m going to continue doing my best to help people through this whole mess and provide as much insight on my area of expertise as I possibly can. I hope that does something to help some people navigate this era better than they otherwise could.

2019 NRA Leadership Forum
The 2019 NRA Leadership Forum in Indianapolis, Indiana / Stephen Gutowski

Will the NRA Annual Meeting Actually Happen in Two Weeks?

The NRA is supposed to hold its Annual Meeting in Houston, Texas, starting on September 3rd.

However, with Covid cases still rising and available hospital capacity shrinking, some of the biggest names in the industry are pulling out of the event. Benelli USA, Browning, FN Herstal, Kimber Manufacturing, Savage Arms, Smith & Wesson, Springfield Armory, Sig Sauer, and Sturm, Ruger & Company are all skipping the indoor exhibit hall, according to The Daily Beast. The companies don’t want to risk their employees’ health, and the report claims some have gone as far as pressuring the NRA to cancel the event altogether.

The NRA did not comment on the state of the Annual Meeting when I reached out to them for comment on the situation.

So, where does that leave things? Will Covid wipe out the second NRA Annual Meeting in a row? It’s honestly hard for me to say.

The Annual Meeting is the biggest fundraising event of the year for the NRA. The gun-rights group could certainly use the influx of cash as it struggles to recover from last year’s Covid crash while trying to keep up with the exorbitant legal fees from its failed bankruptcy gambit and the New York Attorney General’s ongoing lawsuit seeking its dissolution.

Canceling the event less than two weeks before it’s set to happen would also likely be a very costly endeavor. The Annual Meeting is a massive undertaking that usually sees upwards of 80,000 attendees. Those folks tend to buy a lot of NRA merchandise and memberships while they’re there, and purchasing all the supplies to make it happen likely runs into the millions.

Plus, I’m sure they’ve paid quite a lot to get the convention center. Unless the government forcing them to cancel the event, who knows if they could get any of that back?

Of course, going through with the meeting now has two pronounced problems. Namely, the optics of an exhibit hall devoid of the biggest names in the industry and the elevated risk of a significant covid outbreak among attendees.

I booked my flight and hotel earlier this week, and I’ve yet to cancel them. Being fairly young and fully vaccinated, I’m not at much risk. But I’ll probably wear a KN-95 mask in the exhibit hall if the event does move forward. Is that overly cautious? Probably, yea. But I also carry a gun on me everywhere I go on the off chance somebody tries to attack me. So, I guess I’m fairly risk-averse by nature.

The stories of people my age getting bad cases of Covid tend to stick in my head the same way stories of people being victimized by violent criminals. Neither is likely to happen to me when I walk out my door, but there’s no guarantee of that. So, I’ll take the reasonable preventative measures I can. You never know what vandal or variant is waiting for you around the bend.

If the NRA does go through with the meeting, I will be there to provide coverage of whatever happens. I would expect some fireworks over the group’s legal woes during the members’ meeting and the board meeting. 2019’s meeting produced a lot of news, and I would be surprised if 2021 doesn’t do the same.

If you’re going to be in town, drop me a line. Hopefully, we can meet up!

Russian-made ammunition sits on the shelf in a gun store
Russian-made ammunition sits on the shelf in a gun store / Stephen Gutowski

How Biden’s Russian-Ammo Ban Will Further Strain Supply Right Away

On Friday, the Biden Administration announced it would no longer grant permits to import Russian-made guns and ammo.

The administration said the sanctions are tied to the poisoning and jailing of dissident Aleksey Navalny. The rule will deny all future importation permits but won’t cancel those already operating. Some of the current permits could last for another year or two.

So, why does this matter today if some companies can still import Russian ammo for another year or longer?

Well, the reality is the ammo market is already overrun with demand and short on supply. Anything that comes in the door of major retailers such as Lucky Gunner goes right back out. And things were already unlikely to get back to normal for several years.

A new ban, even one whose full effect will be slightly delayed, will cause panic buying immediately.

Plus, while Russian brands like TulAmmo make common calibers from 9mm to 5.56 NATO, they also specialize in calibers utilized in Russian-designed guns such as the AK-47. People used to buying Russian-made ammo for their Russian guns will probably start stockpiling now. And some could even decide against buying guns chambered in popular Russian calibers, which would push even more demand into calibers more common in the United States.

All of that equals more demand for fewer rounds even before the shipments from Russia begin to slow down.

This, of course, presents an opportunity for American ammo manufacturers to branch out into new calibers. Or for other countries to import more of their ammo. But with demand the way it already is and most manufacturers already beyond their capacity to produce more, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to catch up to what they already have orders for, let alone start producing entirely new product lines.

Podcast: National African American Gun Association President Philip Smith on Biden’s ATF Nominee David Chipman

This week, I’m joined by Philip Smith, who is the head of the National African American Gun Association.

He talks about President Joe Biden’s (D.) nominee to head the ATF, David Chipman, and the allegations of racism levied against him by former agents. Smith says Chipman is the wrong man for the job and talks about why the acting director is a better pick.

Smith also responds to recent assertions that the Second Amendment itself is the result of racism. He also discusses the group’s Supreme Court brief calling for the end of New York’s restrictive “may-issue” concealed carry law due to the historically racist use of such laws. And he gives an update on the group’s growth as well as the growth in black gun ownership over the past year.

Plus, I give an update on the horrific situation in Afghanistan, including new gun confiscation efforts by the Taliban. And The Reload‘s newest contributing writer Jake Fogleman stops by to introduce himself!

You can listen to the full podcast here.

Joe Biden delivers remarks about Afghanistan on August 16, 2021
Joe Biden delivers remarks about Afghanistan on August 16, 2021 / screenshot

Analysis: What Biden’s Afghanistan Disaster Means for Gun Policy [Member Exclusive]
By Stephen Gutowski

When it comes to gun policy, there are two big takeaways I see from the debacle of the past week in Afghanistan.

The first is one that we really didn’t need this disaster in order to learn. It’s one that’s been demonstrated countless times throughout human history. But it’s also one that President Joe Biden has yet to learn: Military superiority doesn’t guarantee victory.

In June, as he’d done before, the president insisted that resisting a modern military’s overwhelming force is effectively impossible.

“Those who say the blood of… ‘the blood of patriots,’ you know, and all the stuff about how we’re going to have to move against the government,” Biden said in a speech. “Well, the tree of liberty is not watered with the blood of patriots. What’s happened is that there have never been—if you wanted or if you think you need to have weapons to take on the government, you need F-15s and maybe some nuclear weapons.”

Of course, the Taliban have recaptured the whole of Afghanistan without the use of F-15s or nuclear weapons. They did it without ever being capable of taking on the American military in open combat or creating soldiers anywhere near the quality of our own.

And they are far from the first to do so. The lesson has been taught repeatedly throughout the years. Whether by the Viet Cong or our own Founding Fathers. Many didn’t need a new teacher, let alone one composed of terrorist barbarians already imposing their own civilian gun-confiscation scheme, to learn this lesson. And I’m not sure President Biden will learn it this time either.

The second takeaway is a bit more subtle but also more directly applicable to the immediate political situation around guns in America.

The president’s stubborn refusal to change course or even admit any failure in the face of calamity provides further evidence for how he’ll handle the rest of his agenda. Or, at the very least, the parts of his agenda he is particularly invested in personally.

President Biden has repeatedly put the decision to surrender Afghanistan to the Taliban in personal terms. His late son Beau served in the Army, and he has cited not being willing to send him to Afghanistan to fight in the war as a key part of his decision-making. And he’s held a preference for military withdrawals from his time in the Senate during the Vietnam War, through the Iraq pullout when he was vice president, and on to today.

He has shown a similar level of commitment to imposing new gun restrictions and bans throughout his career. As he has said repeatedly since he launched his campaign to become president, he was a primary backer of the 1994 “assault weapons” ban and has proposed myriad gun-control policies over the past several decades. It is a personal priority of his to the point where his top self-professed wish is to repeal the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, a relatively obscure law that provides the gun industry immunity from certain kinds of frivolous lawsuits that were popular in the 1990s.

Of course, despite becoming president, he is still limited in what he can actually accomplish because of congressional gridlock. But, while he can’t get new gun legislation through, he can still pursue unilateral action. And, obviously, he’s already done that.

He’s pushing two executive actions through the federal rulemaking process. One would redefine what constitutes a firearm in order to greatly expand the ATF’s power. The other would effectively ban pistol-braced AR-15s, potentially criminalizing millions of American gun owners.

But those actions have encountered significant, nearly unprecedented public resistance. While most proposed rule changes get a handful of public comments, President Biden’s gun proposals have racked up hundreds of thousands. The pistol-brace ban has more than 130,000. The proposed redefinition of “firearm” has garnered over 240,000 almost entirely negative comments from the public.

David Chipman, the gun-control activist nominated by the president to run the ATF, has also encountered firm headwinds from his fellow agents and Democratic senators alike.

But, given the way President Biden has responded to the disaster unfolding in Afghanistan with a combination of silence and defiance, it’s likely he’ll do the same with the gun policies he can push through on his own. Perhaps that won’t matter with Chipman’s nomination since it still relies on approval from the Senate. But the likelihood that public backlash could prevent Biden’s executive actions from going into effect appears diminished.

It’s increasingly looking like gun-rights advocates will have to fight the regulations in court rather than relying on the president to back away from them—no matter the political costs he might face in doing so.

Back on the Farm

I’m back watching my Mom’s farm in Pennsylvania this week. She and my step-father had to travel to deal with a loved one’s illness. So, I’m hanging out with the horses, chickens, and dogs.

I’m also getting to spend time with my family, especially my grandparents, who now live across the street. It’s wonderful being able to work the farm with both of them and then have dinner together. My grandfather, who spent a long career as a police officer then became a painter is an avid reader of the newsletters (Hi, Grandfather!), which is always encouraging to me.

I also got to visit the local gun store after I fed and turned out the horses. It has a big ol’ GUNS sign out front that I always enjoy, and it has stayed surprisingly well-stocked given all the shortages. I compared a Sig Sauer P365 XL to the P365 X. Unlike Goldielocks; I think the bigger one is more my taste than the one in the middle.

A sign advertising guns outside a store
A sign advertising guns outside a store / Stephen Gutowski

They also had a new Ruger 10/22, and a reasonably-priced used Remington 870. They only had one of each, but I was still impressed, given how hard it is to find either these days. They also had a rack of pistol-braced ARs that are still a common sight everywhere despite President Biden’s impending ban on them.

The ATF will never be able to collect the millions already out there even if they tried, which I doubt they ever really would regardless of what regulation changes get made on paper.

Anyway, I really liked the CMMG Banshee they had in stock. That seems like it would make for a fantastic home defense gun. Even if the pistol braces aren’t as good for shouldering as the administration would like us to believe.

Staying on the farm has offered something of a reprieve from the awful news of the week. I hope you all have been able to find a similar shelter from the storm in your own lives. Things are certainly easier to deal with when you have that.

That’s it for now.

I’ll talk to you all again soon.

Stephen Gutowski
The Reload

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Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019


Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

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