Will Newtown Prompt New Look at Regulating Online Ammunition Sales?


Proposed legislation to regulate online purchases of ammunition and high-capacity magazines is bringing new attention to a growing cyberspace ammo market that has operated with little government oversight, reports the Center for Public Integrity. Under federal law, firearms dealers must obtain a federal license and keep records of their transactions, but there's virtually no federal regulation of ammunition suppliers or sales, though there was before 1986. Adults who want to stockpile large amounts of ammo—say 1,000 rounds of rifle fire or more— can buy it from dozens of web sites that specialize in bulk sales, often at low prices. Some sites also hawk magazines that fire up to 100 rounds without reloading, which critics argue have repeatedly been tied to deadly mass shootings and should be outlawed.

Some online sellers list no names of their owners, give only a post office box address and ship merchandise to customers using overnight couriers. Buyers can access a special search engine to compare inventory and prices at more than 30 dealers. Nima Samadi, who follows the $3 billion-a-year small arms industry for the market research firm IBISWorld, said online ammo sales have been gaining in popularity “due to convenience and lower prices consumers can get by buying in bulk online.” Some gun control advocates hope public outrage over the Newtown, Ct., massacre will prompt a closer look at these businesses and the firepower they can unleash. Tighter regulation “is certainly a possibility,” said Samadi. Je noted that public opinion is fickle and said “it's hard to accurately predict what will happen.” The online sale of ammo “is a somewhat new and developing industry and there isn't too much information out there,” he added.

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