The combination of rumors and fear has driven the nation's 100 million firearms owners to stores across the country in order to stockpile ammunition.
And Warren County is not immune to the growing trend.
"Normally these nine shelves of ammunition would be full," said Grizzly Gary Outdoors owner Gary Wert, "but they bought everything."
Times Observer photo by Ben Klein
High consumer demand for ammunition has left stores, like the shelves at Grizzly Gary’s Outdoors in Warren, nearly empty.
What started as a smaller run on ammunition after President Barack Obama was re-elected president in November snowballed after the mass shooting at Newtown, Conn.
"That's when everybody went off the deep end," Wert said.
After the shooting at Newtown, Obama led an effort to strengthen federal gun controls and several states to tighten their laws.
Connecticut became the latest to crack down as the governor signed a measure that immediately went into effect adding more than 100 firearms to the state's assault weapons ban, creating a dangerous weapon offender registry and eligibility rules for ammunition purchases, according to the Associated Press.
Local consumers have been buying everything from .22-caliber bullets to .223 and .308 leaving Wert's shelves with just unusual caliber ammunition, such as 8 mm, 6mm, and 300 magnum.
"It's everything. They bought all my .30-.30, they bought all my pistol ammo, the British .303, the crazy stuff, the normal hunting stuff they're buying, boxes and boxes of it," Wert said.
Big box stores like Walmart and Dick's Sporting Goods have been struggling to keep up with demand and both have limited the purchase of ammunition to three boxes per day.
The local Walmart in North Warren is limiting ammunition sales to three boxes per day and is also refusing to sell firearms to residents from just over the border in New York State.
Tall Tales Sporting Goods owner Randy Lookenhouse said over the last several months shipments of handgun ammo and long-rifle ammo are gone in a weekend.
"We've been getting it relatively frequently, not in large quantities," he said. "It's no different here than it is anywhere else."
"Everything snowballed," he said. "We're getting stuff in. We're trying to keep as many local people satisfied as we can."
Access to handguns and modern sporting rifles from distributors has also been spotty as they "come and go as fast we can get them," Lookenhouse said.
Lawrence Kean of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which is based in Newton, told the Associated Press that the nation's 100 million firearms owners are driving the market for some 10 billion rounds annually, with demand and gun purchases both increasing the past several months, driven partly by fear that tougher laws will restrict the ability to buy firearms.
"There's concern by firearms owners that this administration will pursue bans on products, bans on ammunition...It's not limited geographically to New York or anywhere else. It is nationwide," he said.
Some government critics attributed shortages to federal purchases of bullets, accusing officials of trying to hoard a billion rounds and disarm the populace, the Associated Press said.
"Department of Homeland Security and the federal government itself is buying up ammunition and components at such a rate, it's causing artificial shortage of supplies for the regular consumer," Jesse Alday told the Associated Press in Rolesville, N.C.
"They're buying it up as fast as they can, for reasons they're not officially willing to admit or go into...They're not willing to come up with any answers as to the reasons behind why they have enough ammunition on the U.S., on our own home soil, to wage a 25-year war," he said. "That's kind of strange."
"If they can't get the gun, then they say, 'Let's get the ammo'," Wert said. "What good is a gun if you don't have the ammunition for it?"
Kean, whose group includes manufacturers, told the Associated Press the reports of massive federal purchases were not true.
The government routinely buys products in bulk to reduce costs, and Homeland Security has said the latest purchases are no different.
Last year, the department put out bids for a total of about 1.6 trillion rounds of ammunition over the next five years. The rounds are to be used for training, routine weapons qualification exercises and normal duty by various department agencies, the Associated Press said.
Stockpiling has also been fueled by false online rumors, such as one that purports a coming nickel tax on each bullet which would triple the cost of a .22-caliber style cartridge, Hans Farnun, president of Beikirch's Ammunition, a retailer and wholesaler in Rochester, N.Y., told the Associated Press.
"I don't want to call them doomsayers, but people get on these blogs on the Internet and they drive people's fears," he said. "They do not want to wait around and see."