During the past six years or so, I have had occasion from time to time to go into a WalMart, or a Gander Mountain store, or some other sporting goods establishment, wherein I have asked the question: “Do you have any .22 caliber ammunition?” On every occasion, the answer has been “No.” Each time I asked, “When are you going to get some in?” and was told, “Don’t know.” If I went even further and asked, “When was the last time you had some in stock?’ the answer was along the lines of, “Three months ago, on a Monday morning, for about 15 minutes.” I thought it was odd, the first few times it happened. Then I found out the same thing was happening all across the country. And was going on for year after year, and that weirded me out.
As you see, it took a long time for this thing to dawn on me, because my need for ammunition is not great. I occasionally exercise my Second Amendment rights on an especially obnoxious groundhog, or a chicken-killer, and once a year I use hunting season as cover for a week-long, rustic debauch with my male friends and descendants. Part of that cover is an ostentatious supply of 30-30 shells, but the same half-dozen rounds have been fulfilling that purpose since about 1990. The fact that after six years of trying without success to buy some .22 shells, I have still not run out, or even short, will tell you how great is my need.
Still, one likes to know what is going on, so starting about five years ago I started asking the sellers: “What is going on?” The first answer was, “Well, you know, Obama is coming for our guns.”
Wait. He’s coming for our .22’s?? Our tin-can plinkers? What does he want with them? Why would he pass up our Kalashnikovs and AR-15s and surface-to-air missile launchers and grab our varmint rifles? Okay, never mind, let’s say he is after them, wouldn’t the appropriate response be to hoard the rifles, not the ammunition? There has been in this time period no shortage whatsoever of .22 caliber rifles and pistols.
A few years passed, and Obama coming for our guns turned into a zen-like concept, a thing like the horizon, which you can forever approach but never reach. For six years now, Obama, with the full powers of the presidency at his disposal, has been coming for our guns but has not so far arrived at a single gun. Either somebody misread his intent, or he’s even more incompetent than George Will thinks he is.
Another explanation I was offered was that Obama, that wily devil, realizing that he’d have to pry the weapons from cold, dead hands, came for the ammo instead. And he specified .22 ammo why? Well, you know, he’s a Kenyan community organizer, what does he know. Then there was this variant: the Department of Homeland Security, aka Department of Jack-Booted Thugs, is buying all the ammunition there is for its army of oppression. This, you can look up. And even the magazine of the National Rifle Association debunked it.
Well into Obama’s second term, the explanation offered for the continuing absence of .22 ammunition from stores changed: “It’s the survivalists. Getting ready for TEOTWAKI — the end of the world as we know it.”
Okay, that made more sense. For about 30 seconds. Sure, on the other side of the crash of the industrial world we will need to be able to hunt, and to defend ourselves, so stocking up on ammunition made sense. Until I remembered that I have never found a store to be out of 30-30, or .308, or any other common hunting ammo, nor of .38 or 9mm or .357 or any of the other calibers commonly favored for self-defense. Are these guys all planning to live on rabbit? And fight World Wars Three through Five with single-shot varmint guns?
Moreover, there are enough survivalists of that peculiar state of mind to maintain a nationwide, industry-wide shortage for six years? In 2013, the manufacturers put out 10 billion cartridges of all kinds. Cornering the market on even a segment of that industry would be no small feat.
The last time I asked — yesterday — I got a new twist on the answer. It’s the survivalists, I was told, but they aren’t planning to use the bullets in their guns, they plan to use them as currency – a valuable trade item in a dystopian world. The bitcoin of the post-apocalyptic age. The clever devil who explained that to the gun-store clerk boasted of having 30,000 rounds in his basement.
“As our situation is new,” said Abraham Lincoln, “we must think anew, and act anew.” I don’t think this is what he meant.