The website of Guns and Ammo, the country's most popular shooting magazine, has nothing to say about the Newtown school massacre. Not on the homepage nor in any of the five blogs, many of which are devoted to stories about politicians found with guns in their luggage (oops!) or home-owners who successfully use weapons in self-defense.
I wonder what they have to say about ammunition. That's because, if there is an overlooked domain in the debate about gun control, it's what to do with the most precious element in the supply chain. The 300 million guns that are in private hands aren't going away; I can't think of any law or incentive program that would suddenly make the disappear. When Australia decided to crack down on gun laws, it managed only to repurchase 600,000.
So as odious as it sounds, the argument that "criminals are going to get guns" is a valid one. Closing the private sale loophole might make it harder, as would common enforcement across states, but let's face it: These instruments of hunting, aggression, and self-defense are here among us. There aren't perishable. But bullets — bullets are a different story. An interesting story.
If you frequent "Survivalist" websites, you'll find that one of the most pressing topics discussed is gingerly called ammunition life span management. Ammo has a shelf-life. Even good ammo. Guns are forever, but ammo degrades, even if stored in precisely proper conditions and humidors that criminals don't often have.
Gun owners buy ammunition frequently. The website ammunitiontogo.com, which pops up when you search for "ammunition life," features a scantily clad busty beauty holding a rifle along with a warning: "Due to the extremely high volume of orders that we are receiving at this time we are experiencing a processing delay of 6 to 7 business days. We are working very hard every day to keep the delays minimal. Your patience is greatly appreciated! Thank you for your business!."
Ammunition degrades because the gunpower inside of it does not last forever in the compressed state that it lives. The accuracy of a bullet declines slowly over time. Heat is especially bad for ammunition of all types. The more times you chamber a round, the likelier it will degrade. For most people, the decline in accuracy is mitigated somewhat by the fact that they never use their firearms for self-defense purposes. But it really can be a problem in the long-run. And that's why ammo manufacturers are even more profitable than gun manufacturers.
Because ammunition is gun food, if we can starve the guns a bit, or change the way ammunition sales are regulated and controlled, perhaps we can change the way guns are used.
Remington. Winchester. Speer. Hornady. These are the lions of the business. Let's put aside the cartridges used for hunting and sporting. Those are easily identifiable. We can exclude them from this exercise.
If we can figure out a reasonable way to limit both the number of bullets that someone can buy as well as the type of magazine that allows them to shoot an unreasonable amount of bullets in a single session, there may be a way to tame some of the value (the ease of use) that attracts criminals and, let's call them the evil opportunists — the people who need a stress to push them to use guns on innocent people.
Here's what can be done immediately: Subject ammunition purchases to the same scrutiny that goes with gun purchases. An instant background check. Slow down the process. Obviously, the more lethal a bullet is, the higher the justification to regulate. So anything that advertises itself as armor-piecing, or fragmenting, or whatever — I'm no expert — is harder for gun rights advocates to play defense with legislatively.