A spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security confirms via email (they don't like to talk on the phone) that a five-year department-wide contract was awarded this spring to Federal Cartridge, a wholly owned subsidiary of ATK, for the purchase of up to 450 million rounds of .40-caliber S&W 180-grain pistol ammunition. It's "the quantity projected to be used over the next five years" by DHS, excluding the Coast Guard, which gets its ammunition through the Department of Defense.
It's "the primary vehicle" for the .40-caliber duty ammo, adds spokesman Matt Chandler.
(For a scale comparison, the Army in 2010 ordered 200 million rounds of its improved M855A1 5.56 round for use in Afghanistan, describing that amount as a 12- to 15-month supply.)
The department was also soliciting April bids for a new supply of .233 Remington rifle ammunition -- the stuff the Army uses in its M-16s. Various Internet reports -- including one from Business Insider -- contend that order could be in the range of 125 million to 175 million rounds, though in response to repeated email inquiries, a DHS spokesman in late March would confirm only that Immigration and Customs Enforcement would be seeking bids by April 12 for 90,000 rounds.
This still sounds like a lot of ammunition for an agency best-known for its blue-gloved goons waiting to grope you at the airport.
No one is saying border guards should go unarmed or carry empty weapons. And yes, any federal officer authorized to go armed presumably needs to qualify at the range from time to time. But hundreds of millions of rounds?
One part of the answer: The DHS runs the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, headquartered in Glynco, Ga., where every gun-handling federal agent from federal marshals to IRS agents to USDA chicken inspectors get their firearms training. If we assume the federales use their high-quality "duty" ammunition at the range and don't cut corners with generic hardball for practice, like those of us who have to buy our own brass (and it appears they may), that could start to add up.
But I'm reliably informed DHS itself currently fields more than 135,000 "weapons-carrying law enforcement officers across the department."
And is there any plan to expand that number -- or the department's mission?
"The short answer is no," a Homeland Security spokesman tells me.
One thing should be obvious, however. In little more than a decade since the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center, the federal government has created a vast new domestic police force, massively armed and busily working to get us accustomed to what looks more and more like an army of domestic occupation.
And because American civilians are simultaneously gunning up in unprecedented numbers, in part out of concern that the gun grabbers' agenda may be back on the front burner in any Obama second term, could this be considered an arms race?
Meantime, I see the Winston-Salem Journal reported March 29 that a federal judge ruled North Carolina can't ban residents from carrying or buying guns and ammunition during a state-declared emergency.
"While the bans imposed ... may be limited in duration, it cannot be overlooked that the statutes strip peaceable, law-abiding citizens of the right to arm themselves in defense of hearth and home, striking at the very core of the Second Amendment," Senior U.S. District Judge Malcolm J. Howard wrote in his order.
The order stopped short of finding the state's emergency gun-ban law unconstitutional on its face. Still, attorney Alan Gura, representing the plaintiffs, said police are "on notice" that they cannot enforce the ban on people who are law-abiding citizens exercising their rights.
The state can appeal. Expect them to keep trying.
The media and guns
Surely we're all sick by now of the February shooting in Florida of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, a case that intrigued the mainstream press only so long as it appeared to fit their preconceived notion that Florida's "stand your ground" law authorizes aging honkies to randomly shoot with impunity innocent minority youths. (So desperate was The New York Times to stick with this narrative that its staff coined a new term for Mr. Zimmerman: As of March 22 they began to refer to him as a "white Hispanic.")
In fact, if Zimmerman and an eyewitness are correct, Florida's "stand your ground" law wouldn't have come into play at all, because it would be hard for anyone to explain how Mr. Zimmerman, reportedly flat on his back with a broken nose and being pummelled by the 6-foot-tall Martin, might have further retreated before resorting to his sidearm.
More recently, six students and a receptionist were killed and three others were wounded at the tiny storefront Oikos University, a Christian school in Oakland, Calif., founded to help Korean immigrants adjust to life in America and launch new careers. A gunman identified as former student One Goh, 43, went on a shooting rampage there Monday morning.
We mourn the unnecessary deaths. But we also note no mainstream media outlet asked the obvious question: Why did no one at the school, with a student body of about 100, shoot back? They didn't ask the question because they already knew the answer: California makes it extremely difficult for law-abiding residents to obtain a permit to carry a handgun for self-defense.
Small women are most in need of such a weapon, but they are also least likely to want to sport one openly on the hip. That means they would need concealed carry licenses, but in California those are pretty much reserved for judges, other politicians and their rich friends.
Which leads us to the second Question Never Asked -- because California's unconstitutional gun control laws once again have proved counterproductive (they had the effect of disarming the victims while they obviously proved useless in preventing the shooter from laying hands on a firearm), why doesn't the Legislature in Sacramento repeal them all?
Vin Suprynowicz is assistant editorial page editor of the Review-Journal and author of the novel "The Black Arrow" and "Send in the Waco Killers." See www.vinsuprynowicz.com.