Public safety agencies facing ammo shortage

by: Aaron Diamant Updated:

Channel 2 Action News has learned local police departments cannot get their hands on the supply of ammunition they need.
FULTON COUNTY, Ga. —

Channel 2 Action News has learned local police departments cannot get their hands on the ammunition they need. 

Investigative reporter Aaron Diamant spent two days talking with local police leaders, working to get to the bottom of what's behind the shortage and its impact on the public's safety.

Diamant said the mostly empty shelves inside the Sandy Springs police armory say it all.

"When you can't get ammunition, it is very concerning," said Sandy Springs Police Chief Terry Sult.

Sult's department is one of many law enforcement agencies in Georgia that Diamant found with bullets on back order - tens of thousands of rounds each.

"It affects our ability to be prepared,” Sult said. “It affects the potential safety of the officers, because they're not as proficient as they should be."

A nationwide ammunition shortage has already forced the Douglas County Sheriff's Office to push back a couple training exercises while scrambling to restock.

"It could be six months. It could be eight months,” said Douglas County Chief Deputy Stan Copeland.

And it's not just the practice ammo in short supply.

"We've been looking at what to do,” Copeland said. “We don't know when our next shipment of duty ammo is coming in."

Local police ammo suppliers like Jay Wallace, owner of Smyrna Police Distributors in Cobb County, blame the fallout, in part, on a huge spike in gun and ammo sales to civilians after the horrific school shooting in Connecticut.

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Diamant asked Wallace if he ever remembers an ammunition shortage this severe.

“I cannot in my lifetime, in my business lifetime,” Wallace replied. “There's been more demand for ammunition than there's ever been."

Wallace is now worried some departments could have to wait up to a year for factories to ship certain kinds of rounds in bulk.

"We're having law enforcement agencies that are coming in and buying ammunition off the shelf, because, you know, they need it," Wallace said.

Leaders with most departments Diamant reached out to said they’re prepared to handle short shortages, but not long-term.

"We're going be starting to get very concerned at the six-month level if that's all we have in stock, because then we have to start planning and rationing," Sult said.

Diamant found some departments splitting orders between several different vendors to get the ammunition they need. Meanwhile, one local manufacturer told Diamant this week his factory just can't make the ammo fast enough to keep up with demand.