The Fear Stimulus: Year of the Bullet 2009

As one hand of history played high keys of hope and change during the inaugural days of 2009, the other hand was reaching for more ominous sound. Across the keyboard of our national concerto, some chimed celebration, others hoarded bullets.

Reporter Harry Pierson Curtis of the Orlando Sentinel wrote about the 2009 stampede for small arms and ammo in early February: “Most in demand is handgun ammunition, including 9 mm and .45-caliber for semiautomatic pistols and .38-caliber for revolvers.” Customers, retailers, manufacturers, and interest groups all had something to say. The usual American demand for 7 billion rounds of ammo per year (23 bullets per capita?) was fixin’ to head North.

“The Ammo Boom is No Dud,” declared ESPNOutdoors.com in late March. Special contributor Colin Moore attributed the “irrational” hoarding frenzy to a “fear factor” caused by the Democratic Party landslide. Handgun owners, especially, were worried that their ammo would soon be taxed into extinction. One Winchester bullet factory was said to be working 24/7 to meet the hyped-up demand.

By Labor Day, the Los Angeles Gun Club had imposed a four-box limit on ammo sales per customer per visit, reported L.A. Times writer W. J. Hennigan. Bullet manufacturers were running “full bore.” Even the military was outsourcing contracts to fill its need for 1.6 billion rounds per year.

Quarterly excise-tax figures posted Nov. 2 by Ted Novin for the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) confirmed that the gun and ammo sector of the national economy was pumped up. Tax reports for the second-quarter of 2009, compared to the second quarter of 2008, were “up 44.4 percent for handguns, 51.3 percent for long guns, and 57.5 percent for ammunition.” Since the tax rate had not been raised, the increasing tax amounts could be roughly equated to rising sales. Gross Domestic Product meanwhile had fallen over the same two quarters, year over year. For bullet makers, fear of Obama Democrats turned out to be a stealth stimulus.

On the export front, USA ammo manufacturers also logged record sales to global customers. According to a Census Bureau database, exports of small arms ammunition through the first ten months of 2009 have exceeded $2 billion compared to $2.17 billion for all twelve months of 2008.

Through October 2009 we can sort the top eight client nations for American-made small-arms ammo into three clubs: the $Hundred-Million, $Two-Hundred-Million, and $Three-Hundred-Million Clubs. Five members of the $Hundred Million Club received small arms ammo exports ranging from $105 million to $150 million: Poland, Canada, Korea, the United Arab Emirates, and Australia. In the $Two-Hundred-Million Club are two states: the United Kingdom, whose common-law traditions formed the foundation of the US Constitution’s Second Amendment; and Japan, the home of the Peace Constitution. One country stands alone in the $Three-Hundred-Million Club. Can you guess? Israel.

In 2008, the $Two-Hundred-Million Club was curiously occupied by The Netherlands, which has only booked about $17 million in ammunition receivables through October 2009. Israel in all of 2008 had purchased $184 million in American-made ammo supplies. So far in 2009, small arms ammo sales to Israel are up 69 percent.

As an item in the 2009 national account, small arms ammo has been good for GDP and for the balance of trade. Although imports of small-arms ammo are up slightly, edging toward $800 million for the year, American bullet makers are likely to end the year by maintaining something close to a three-to-one trade advantage over their foreign competitors. When it comes to guns and ammo, America knows her stuff.

According to Google Trends, the “ammunition” search term has leveled out to normal since its Second Quarter spike, although its value to the news industry seems to be steadily growing these past few years. Salt Lake City ranks first for taking interest in the term, followed by Phoenix, Denver, St. Louis, Houston, Dallas, Portland, Tampa, Austin, and Orlando (three cities in Texas, two in Florida, nothing on the East Coast North of Florida or the West Coast South of Portland). If you don’t shop for bullets, you might be interested to read what “ammunition” looks like under Google shopping. Kubrick fans should check out the Winchester Full Metal Jacket Value Pack.

Political theorist Hanes Walton, Jr. developed the concept of the “political context variable” to analyze what happened to history between 1965 and 1995. In the Year of the Bullet 2009 we find hard-core evidence of a singular economic countertrend that defies deindustrialization and depression. If political contexts have a material basis, then we have something material to consider about the political context of the first Obama year.

For every claim that the Obama landslide transformed American culture in 2009 we have “bullet points” that document a grassroots prairie fire of gut fear. If progressive activists have felt tiredness in their bones, it may have something to do with a visceral recognition that fear is what we are fighting but never get the chance to confront.

“Contextual transformation in the political arena is a multi-phased process,” argues Walton, Jr. “First, a desire to transform the political context must be evident, along with a strategy. Second, that desire and strategy must become institutionalized.” What progressives generally want is a different kind of fearlessness than the kind you buy with bullets. Yet the strategy of confronting bullets is not quite the strategy of confronting the fear that organizes the production and distribution of bullets. There will not be an end to the boom in bullets until the fear itself is busted.

In parts of Obama’s agenda there seems to be a spark of fearlessness. Health care security would supplement social security as a means of reducing the daily experience of fear. But Obama is also from the Jane Addams school of social progress, which means he’s not going to make a step forward today that people didn’t first demand yesterday. In 2009, people’s fear of health care insecurity got mowed over by louder fears. How do we strategize and institutionalize a truly disarming fearlessness? In the progressive activism of our post-9/11 world, every time we turn around another fear come smashing up.

Organizers of the upcoming SHOT Show in Las Vegas (Jan. 19-22) report that interest is up for “the world’s premier exposition of combined firearms, ammunition, archery, cutlery, outdoor apparel, optics, camping and related products and services.” If you go to Vegas for the SHOT Show, make sure you are a member of the industry (or media) and don’t forget that “personal firearms or ammunition are not allowed.” You don’t see industry attorneys challenging the Second Amendment infringements of that rule. In the end, even the purveyors of guns and ammo would rather push that fear out their door.

Greg Moses is editor of the Texas Civil Rights Review and author of Revolution of Conscience: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Philosophy of Nonviolence. He can be reached at: gmosesx@prodigy.net. Read other articles by Greg, or visit Greg's website.

6 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Danny Ray said on December 31st, 2009 at 10:31am #

    Happy New Year Mr. Moses.

    I seem to have a problem following your article posted in the dissident voice, what is the correlation of export sales of ammunition to other nations and private sales to citizens here in the United States?

    There is a current fear among shooters here in the US that ammo will be hard to get in the future. In many, this combined with the increase in export is a self-fulfilling prophecy. .45 cal., 9MM. and 38’s are extremely hard to get right now. 223- 5.56MM and 308-7.62 MM are on the market; however, most of what is on the market is inferior garbage coming from war stocks in some third world countries. ( be advised I am not slamming third world countries, most of this ammo was sold to the third world by the US and GB and in most conservative’s view the US will soon be a third world nation itself. ) Most major retailers have instituted a rationing of these calibers. In addition, loading components’ are had to find right now. Bullets and cases are almost nonexistent, powder has almost doubled in price and so have primers if they can be found.

    The reasoning for this is complicated; here go your bullet points:
     Most shooters no longer trust the government,
     Many feel that the end of our civilization is just around the corner.
     Most feel that a general breakdown of law and order is a distinct possibility.
     Some feel that to retain our rights as Americans a possible insurrection may be in order.

    The sum total of all this is the very real fear with which most American feel toward the current administration and its policies makes ammunition scarcity a self-fulfilling prophecy.

  2. Danny Ray said on December 31st, 2009 at 10:43am #

    By the way, the SHOT Show does not allow private weapons due to the venues restrictions, All weapons there must have their fireing pins removed.

    I contacted the Sands ( the venue owner) who stated that it was an insurance regulation and that concealed carry was welcome in the casino.

  3. anthony innes said on December 31st, 2009 at 7:03pm #

    Danny Ray ,Good to see your comment.Here in Australia where we have draconian gun”law” we went from holding to having to show licences to buy ammo.Yeah even a .22
    I see from the article that OZ is in the 100 million club.With population of 23 million tops my take is the government is replenishing the stock it pissed away overseas or is expecting to shoot us all at least twice.
    Most gun shops have closed .Sports shooters have dropped away and no one is “safe”.People like me are 20 minutes from response by the cops and if welfare cut out it would be mayhem.
    The Bank for International Settlements (BIS) should be watched by all USA citizens.They are doing what they did to Germany and Japan to the USA .
    Hitlers first move was to disarm the population.
    A joke going around is:
    “What do you call a cop without community support?”
    “A target!”

  4. Mulga Mumblebrain said on January 1st, 2010 at 3:17am #

    This is simply more evidence that the Empire of Death is crumbling, thank God! The Yankee ruling elite thought that they were clever in getting a Manchurian Candidate in Obama to pose as a voice of ‘Hope’ while in reality being Bush in black-face. But they forgot that they had also fooled the rabid, slavering, racist Right, who actually believe Obama is going to change something.
    The years of brainwashing the ‘losers’ who have seen their standards of living undermined by the parasite elites since 1973 is now backfiring. These intellectually challenged millions have been indoctrinated for decades in fear, paranoia and hatred. Hate the niggers, hate the wet-backs, hate Commies, hate the gooks, hate the Moslems, hate, hate, hate. Naturally keeping a population of simple-minded dolts, whose life prospects and those of their children, are being undermined, in a state of heightened fear and loathing will have negative consequences. The US underclass, getting bigger by the day, has been taught to hate everyone but the true architects of their dismal situation,the ruling elites. Add generations of religious indoctrination in the most banal and fundamentalist Christian obscurantism, with pathetic manifestations like Creation Science attesting to the intellectual death of tens of millions, the culture of sadistic violence seen in movies and computer games, the epidemic of synapse clogging obesity due to consumption of a toxic diet of cheap junk food and the incessant hectoring of a psychopathic media, exemplified by the bedlam of FoxNews, and you get an ever deadly Moloch now in its death-throes.
    But, unfortunately, the US Reich seems set to take us all down with it. Not only are Yankee killers slaughtering men, women and children throughout the Islamic world, in the bestial and racist manner that the world has seen from the days of the Indian Wars, but under House Negro Obama, they are threatening China, Iran, Russia, and the independent states of South America and Africa. There is no way that the rulers of the Yankee Reich are going to give up their eternal empire of ‘Full Spectrum Dominance’ to a bunch of Chinese ‘gooks’ without a massacre or a thousand. Of course, if we get lucky, this rabid beast, that has delighted in slaughter throughout is few hundred years of existence, first exterminating its indigenous, killing millions of black slaves, slaughtering, torturing and terrorising in the Philippines, South America, Japan, Korea, Indochina and the Middle East, on the way wiping out millions of buffalo, passenger pigeons, felling vast forests and spreading the cancer of economic exploitation to every corner of the earth, may turn on itself. Perhaps the people of the world will be spared another era of Yankee death-worship when this horror state sets to tearing itself apart. Far better the murderous rabble of the US slaughtering one another than traveling half-way across the world to kill innocents, like the Blackwater scum, who, after killing 14 Iraqis in sport in Baghdad, have had their cases dismissed back in the Reich’s Heimat.
    When the House Negro talks of ‘our values’ just remember that theseare they. We Yanks are the Master Race, and we can kill anyone we like, and get away with it,and if you don’t like, or God forbid! resist,we’ll kill you too.

  5. Danny Ray said on January 1st, 2010 at 4:00am #

    You are right of course, Mulga. As I have stated before America must be brought to its knees. You and the rest of the world must begin a boycott of the United States. You must teach the Moloch a lesson. Stop buying American products at once. Use your navies and stop any shipment of anything for the shores for the hell on earth the United States. Stop accepting anything from the Yankee dogs, no food, no ideas, and no inventions.

    That will not be so hard, no internet, no Tele, no Hollywood, no apple, nothing with the fingerprints of those monsters on it.

    I am sure Chinese pharmaceuticals are just as good as American ones, you do not need that one hundred billion worth of food we ship all over the world, tell us where to stick it.
    Next time there is disasters anywhere in the world tell us to stay home you neither need nor want our help. When the next tsunami strikes somewhere in the Sulu Sea tell us to keep our navy at home, aussie land will send your carriers, oh that’s right you don’t have any. Well, maybe you can get some of your ships to stop sinking helpless Indonesian fishing boats long enough to send help, it will be hard, but anything to put the running dog Yankees into their place.

    In addition, what would be better you should immediately cut us off, do not ship anything to us. Yes that will force us to change, once we are down to our last few boomerangs we will have to come crawling to you and you may then dictate your terms.

    And I want you to know Mulga I both love and cherish our correspondence, now be a dear and ask the head nurse to get your pills and a glass of warm milk and toddle off to nappy time.

  6. Don Hawkins said on January 1st, 2010 at 5:03am #

    “… In fact, the climate crisis, the economic crisis and the security crisis all have a common thread running through them,” Gore said. “And that common thread is our ridiculous overdependence on carbon-based fuels. If you grab that thread and pull it, all three of these crises begin to unravel. And you hold in your hand the answer, which is to switch to renewable forms of energy.” Al Gore

    That was a very sunny summer and suddenly we knew that this ice was a complete mess. The melting forced scientists to think again about what they knew. They couldn’t see before that the area was becoming more vulnerable. Their previous data revealed we wouldn’t get there until 2056. We reached it 50 years early.

    A big shock to me is that this melt is unstoppable now. In a relatively short time, the Arctic will be ice-free. Going from bright, white ice to black water should be a signal to the world that something is coming.

    As the ice is melting, it is changing weather patterns in the Northern Hemisphere. As the ice melts, there will be a rise in sea level. Perhaps 3 feet. That may not sound like a lot, but if you look at a 1-foot rise and what happens — it takes out chunks of cities.

    As the ocean warms, it lets off greenhouse gases, which will warm the Earth further. As the permafrost thaws out, microorganisms get active and digest carbon. lat

    Al Gore is right on the common thread and very soon we get to see that common thread here in the States with the climate bill or maybe not as now talk of no bill. Again just on the off chance what we see with our own eye’s is real the problem will become more clear and then what or now what. Good question as just maybe the attention will be focused on Iran first and a few places in that general area and a little something called carbon-based fuels. We hear on the msm it’s cold and I guess in there mind this little problem is like getting a hamburger at a fast food joint but in human terms a blink of an eye 20 years if we make it that long. Boring this will not be. We hear much about government and the private sector and freedom. Of course that is just bullshit and 2010 will show us more if you look you have to look. So far it’s the easy way out just more illusion and stupidity on a grade scale. I have to admit to watch the msm on TV and that stupidity is now strangeness. I read more from the old worldwide web an amazing thing at least for now. Ignorance is strength it sure is and how will it play out not well.