A 200-round box of 5.56 caliber ammunition on sale at a gun store in Virginia for $150 in January 2022
A 200-round box of 5.56 caliber ammunition on sale at a gun store in Virginia for $150 in January 2022 / Stephen Gutowski

Republicans Urge Army to Continue Sale of Surplus AR-15 Ammo

Prohibiting the commercial sale of excess military ammunition would be detrimental to America’s combat readiness.

That’s what over 100 Republican US Senators and Representatives said in a letter to Army Secretary Christine E. Wormuth last Wednesday. The letter urged her to disregard calls from Democratic politicians and gun-control advocates to end the sale of ammunition from the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant to civilians. It warned that a failure to do so could risk future military ammunition shortages.

“We write to you today to express our deep and growing concerns with recent requests to halt the commercial sale of certain ammunition manufactured at the government-owned Lake City Army Ammunition Plant as permitted by the Department of Defense contract,” the letter reads. “We strongly advise you against acting on these ill-advised requests, as it will fundamentally harm military readiness.”

The letter pushes back on an ongoing campaign targeting the Lake City plant spearheaded by New York Attorney General Letitia James (D.). She and 19 other Democratic attorneys general last month sent a letter of their own to the Biden administration’s Office of Gun Violence Prevention, asking it to prohibit the civilian sale of ammunition made at the plant.

They argued that Lake City’s ammo—which makes up the largest source of small arms ammunition for the United States Armed Forces and is estimated to supply around 30 percent of the current civilian market for 5.56 NATO—has “become the ammunition of choice for use in mass shootings.” That the letter captured the ire of 32 Senators and 76 Representatives highlights the plant’s political salience and its unique position at the intersection of military preparedness and civilian gun rights.

The Republican lawmakers wrote that the plant’s current business practices stem from the military’s experience at the onset of the Global War on Terror. They said the plant could not ramp up production quickly to meet the growing needs of the US war effort due to a shortage of working machinery and skilled workers.

“In an effort to meet the needs of military operations following the unexpected attacks of September 11, 2001, DOD had to turn to foreign partners to meet small caliber ammunition needs,” the letter reads. “In an effort to meet production demands and prevent previous mistakes, DOD modified contractual obligations by Lake City operators to allow for the ability to retain a skilled workforce and to develop production lines that can surge to meet the constantly evolving threats that face our nation.”

The lawmakers claim that a change in policy to prohibit future commercial sales from the plant, as requested by James, would “severely disrupt” ammunition supply chains and cut the plant’s skilled workforce by more than half.

“We strongly urge you to reject calls to ban the commercial sale of ammunition produced at Lake City because it will undermine military readiness and harm our national security,” they wrote.

The firearms industry’s trade group cheered the letter. Larry Keane, Senior Vice President for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, praised the letter’s signatories for putting “military readiness ahead of special-interest partisan politics.”

“Ensuring our military forces are equipped with the ammunition they need to defend our nation should never be a political football for gun control special interests or the politicians supporting their radical agenda,” Keane said in a statement.

The Lake City plant’s practice of selling ammunition for civilian AR-15s and other firearms has long been a source of controversy for gun-control advocates. In 2022, Winchester, the plant’s civilian operator, alleged that the Biden Administration was considering cutting off future civilian sales. However, the administration decided not to go through with the shutdown.

A November 2023 New York Times article thrust the plant’s civilian sales back into the spotlight. The piece documented instances of ammunition produced at the Lake City facility being used in mass shootings and other violent crimes. However, it did not find evidence of the plant facilitating illegal sales or intentionally supplying criminals.

The Biden Administration has not mentioned the renewed effort to cut off surplus ammo sales. The Army did not respond to a request for comment on the dueling letters.

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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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