By Jordy Yager - 04/27/13 05:00 PM EDT
Republicans want to limit the number of bullets federal agencies can purchase so American gun owners can buy more.
Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe and Rep. Frank Lucas have introduced a bill that would prohibit every government agency — except the military — from buying more ammunition each month, than the monthly average it purchased from 2001 to 2009.
"President Obama has been adamant about curbing law-abiding Americans’ access and opportunities to exercise their Second Amendment rights," said Inhofe.
"One way the Obama Administration is able to do this is by limiting what’s available in the market with federal agencies purchasing unnecessary stockpiles of ammunition.”
The issue came to the forefront this week as the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee held a hearing on it, in which Republicans balked at the bulk levels of ammunition the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has amassed over the years.
More from The Hill:
• Rand Paul's ascent brings new scrutiny
• Lawmakers clash over surveillance of Muslim community
• Dem lawmaker defends Mirandizing Boston suspect
• Manchin vows to continue fight for gun control
• McCarthy: Senate will 'definitely' return to gun control
• Cuban-Americans: Keep Cuba on terror list
• Chaffetz: I don’t want feds ‘searching my Facebook page’
Democratic Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.) questioned whether "conspiracy theories" about government attempts to strip American gun owners of their bullets or government plans to stockpile bullets in preparation for a civil war were the driving motivation for the hearing. He pointed to the overwhelming role the blogosphere has played in questioning why DHS needs millions of rounds of ammunition.
"To the extent that we’re responding to conspiracy theories, I think we’re really wasting everybody’s time on that,” Tierney said.
“Unsubstantiated, false conspiracy theories have no place in this committee room, hopefully. Federal ammunition purchases are a fraction of the ammunition market and they’ve been decreasing in recent years,” he said.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) agreed with Tierney, telling its members last year that the high number of bullet purchases was normal for law enforcement agencies and that people should not be paranoid about the government’s intention on this area.
“Skepticism of government is healthy. But today, there are more than enough actual threats to the Second Amendment to keep gun owners busy… there is no need to invent additional threats to our rights,” the gun group wrote.
But lawmakers in conservative states have been hearing from their constituents on the issue relentlessly. So much so that House Appropriations subcommittee chairman John Carter (R-Texas) pressed Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on the issue earlier this month.
Napolitano’s DHS has born the brunt of the scrutiny from Capitol Hill, as Republicans criticize the department for making bulk purchases of ammunition — which it says are cheaper, at about 25-cents per bullet — and hoarding already purchased rounds.
In fiscal year 2012, DHS says it bought about 103 million bullets for $36.5 million, giving the department a total of about 246 million rounds stockpiled for training and operational use. The bulk of the ammunition — about 80 percent — is used for training purposes, according to DHS.
With about 70,000 DHS agents who carry guns, Republicans argue the department has amassed too many rounds of ammunition. In a letter to Sen. Tom Coburn, DHS said it planned to spend about $37.2 million on ammunition in fiscal year 2013.
Lucas said the Ammunition Management for More Obtainability (AMMO) Act of 2013 would help curb the rate at which agencies bought up ammunition. He argued that the bill would help preserve the rights of American gun owners.
“After hearing from my constituents about the shortage of ammunition in Oklahoma and the Department of Homeland Security’s profligate purchases of ammunition, we have introduced the AMMO Act of 2013 to curtail these purchases so Americans can exercise their Second Amendment rights without being encumbered by the federal government,” said Lucas.