Herald/TJ MAXWELL - Jean Tran of JT Sports assists regular customer Kim Mace Wednesday at the shop in Copperas Cove. Guns sales are on the rise nationally but remain steady in the Killeen area. Some local dealers have seen fewer rounds of ammunition available, while others report higher prices.

By Philip Jankowski

Killeen Daily Herald

Whether fueled by speculation of gun control or because of supply hoarders, some Killeen-area retailers are seeing an ammunition shortage.

"It's been busy for quite some time, but in the last month, I've noticed that when I call the distributors, there's really nothing available," Guns Galore Manager David Cheadle said.

The director of the National Rifle Association's Texas affiliate said many gun owners perceive President Barack Obama's administration as a threat to gun ownership.

"A lot of (the shortage) is driven by fears of Second Amendment rights being taken away or eroding," said Steve Hall, the association's executive director. Obama has remained mum on the subject but "he has definite known members in his Cabinet that are gun control supporters."

Cheadle said he couldn't speculate as to why he's seeing an ammunition shortage, but said the current rush has been brought on by people receiving their tax returns. "Whether there's another force behind it, I don't know."

The owner of Lampasas sporting supplies retailer Nocked and Loaded said the current situation reminds him of times shortly after Obama's election in 2008, when shortages were reported across the state. At the time, assault rifles, ammunition and most paramilitary supplies quickly sold out and were impossible to restock for several months.

"That kind of corrected itself, but in the market now from the wholesaler perspective, there is no inexpensive ammo to be found," said Johnny Wade, Nocked and Loaded owner.

Wade has seen some of his least expensive bullets jump from 30 cents apiece to 48 cents each in the past few months. He said large suppliers may be hoarding cheap ammunition to make a profit as demand rises.

"About three weeks ago, my people said 'If you want to get some inexpensive stuff, it is disappearing by the truckload,'" he said.

Jean Tran, owner of JT Sports in Copperas Cove, has seen similar price increases. She has been notified by distributors that in the coming months, prices may rise between 10 and 50 percent.

But Tran said she is not having problems filling supply orders.

Texas State Rifle Association state legislative director Alice Tripp said she has not fielded any complaints from suppliers, as she did when Obama was first elected.

Statewide, gun sales in Texas are on the rise.

Reports from the Federal Bureau of Investigation show the number of background checks performed for buying guns was at an all-time high in 2011. The number of checks rose 20 percent, with December at the highest point since the agency started requiring background checks in 1998. February 2011 was the fourth-highest per-month background check in Texas history.

The FBI reports that more than 98 percent of checks result in the purchase of a gun.

"I don't know if it is the anticipation that things are going to get bad or if the Obama administration got back in there, that there would be a push to get the guns," Wade said.

Contact Philip Jankowski at philipj@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7553. Follow him on Twitter at KDHcrime.

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