The Biden administration has backed down from its reported desire to end commercial ammunition production at a Lake City, Missouri, military plant.
Winchester Ammunition and the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), an industry trade group, said last week the Biden Administration was considering ending civilian overflow production at the facility. However, White House Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates said Tuesday that the Biden administration will not be going through with the policy.
“The administration is not going to restrict production/sales of excess ammunition currently available for sale to the public (including M855 and SS109) at Lake City Army Ammunition Plant,” Bates said in a tweet.
An attempt by the Biden administration to choke off the supply of civilian ammunition also could have imperiled his party’s gun control negotiations on Capitol Hill. Opening up another front in the gun control fight likely would have made Republicans less open to supporting any new legislation. Stopping that plant’s overflow production would have eliminated up to 30 percent of the civilian 5.56 NATO ammunition market, according to an NSSF estimate, which would have sent civilian ammunition prices soaring even higher than they already have. The 5.56 NATO is commonly used in the AR-15, a popular rifle that has long been the target of Democratic gun-control efforts.
Bates initially addressed the controversy on Monday by tweeting that the administration would not let the plant close down. However, that avoided Winchester and NSSF’s key concerns, namely that a ban on producing overflow ammunition would harm both the civilian market for ammunition and military readiness.
“This threat of restricting ammunition sales is another example of political agendas interfering with lawful commerce of law-abiding gun owners,” NSSF spokesman Mark Oliva told The Reload last week. He also said Winchester was talking with government officials “to ensure their full understanding of the negative implications” from shutting down excess production of the rounds.
Those concerns were echoed by 50 Republican members of Congress, who published a letter urging President Joe Biden to reconsider ending the sale of overflow ammunition from the government-owned, contractor-operated plant. They claimed the move was part of a broader effort by the Biden Administration to unilaterally institute gun restrictions.
“The Biden administration has made their priorities clear: dismantle the Second Amendment, compromise military readiness, and push inflation to new heights. It’s time for the Biden Administration to stop its attack on our Constitutional right to keep and bear arms” Representatives Vicky Hartzler (R., Mo.) said in a statement.
Winchester also claimed upwards of 500 skilled employees would have been terminated and the facility’s ability to fulfill contracts for the Department of Defense would have been disrupted. New civilian production facilities would take years to bring online in order to make up for the lack of supply from Lake City. That’s why NSSF said it was working with members of Congress to stop the policy. Larry Keane, NSSF senior vice president, said the effort paid off and credited pressure applied by the industry and lawmakers for the White House’s decision.
“The Army did tell Winchester they were going to force them to stop selling into the commercial market,” Keane tweeted at Bates on Tuesday. “Now that the administration’s plan to cut 30+% of the market for 5.56mm ammo has been exposed & after 50 House members sent a letter to White House you are now denying it.”
The White House did not respond to a request for comment.