Ammo 2.

Back in 2007, at the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, American soldiers were firing a billion rounds a year. That’s a lot of bullets, even by my standards. About 1,500 Iraqis were killed by US and coalition forces in 2007.[1] About 4,500 enemy fighters were killed in Afghanistan in 2007.[2] So, that would end up totaling about 6,000 enemy combatants killed in 2007 in the two wars taken together. In theory, that means that American soldiers fired a billion rounds to kill 6,000 enemies. That makes it sound like they’re just spraying around on full-auto at the first sign of trouble. Except that it isn’t true. American soldiers and Marines fire a lot, probably most, of their rounds in training. Still, that leaves us with the question of how many rounds American soldiers did fire in combat. I haven’t figured out how to track that yet. It is worth doing because it is one way of measuring what may have been the experience of Afghans and Iraqis with American soldiers. Do they just shoot up any place that gives them guff or are they obviously discriminating in their use of force? This has implications for our relationships with these people going forward.

Then, bullets are a commodity just like, say, eggs. At any given moment, production is limited to some level. When demand goes up, prices rise until production expands. The federal government can always run a deficit and just print the money it needs. In contrast, state and local governments are required to live within their means. What this meant was that the federal government came to dominate the bullet market at the expense of both hunters and police departments. I don’t know what hunters did. Maybe there are a lot more deer and bear wandering around as a result of our wars. However, faced with a shortage of bullets, police departments responded by reducing the amount of live-fire target practice and training.[3] Apparently, this began back in 2007 at the latest. How long did the training reduction continue? For that matter, is it still in effect? Administrative systems develop a certain momentum that can be difficult to change. The point here is to ask if that training reduction is in any way connected to the recent high-profile cases of police officers shooting unarmed people? Or perhaps this is just an example of “apophenia” (seeing patterns where none actually exist).[4]

Over-lapping this ammunition shortage was another associated with events of the first Obama administration. Many gun-owners were deeply suspicious of the new president on the matter of the Second Amendment.[5] This led to the buying of guns and ammunition, just as my father-in-law’s own father bought several casks of brandy as Prohibition approached. In December 2012, the massacre at Sandy Hook school led to calls[6] for much tighter regulations of guns. Lots of people bought ammunition (and probably receivers). For example, the FBI reported 2.8 million background checks in December 2012, most coming after the Sandy Hook shootings. The price of .22-cal. Long Rifle went from 5 cents a round to 12 cents a round.[7]

Little things can be made to tell you a lot. Or, at least, raise questions.

[1] See: https://www.iraqbodycount.org/analysis/numbers/2011/

[2]See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civilian_casualties_in_the_war_in_Afghanistan_%282001%E2%80%93present%29#Civilian_and_overall_casualties_.282006.29

[3] “Noted,” The Week, 7 September 2007, p. 20.

[4] See: William Gibson, Pattern Recognition (2003). Amazing book. My students hate it.

[5] His derisive comments about people “holding on to their God and their guns” didn’t win him any friends among gun-owners. See: “Stuff My President Says.”

[6] Including my own e-mailed appeal to one of my two idiot Senators.

[7] This is the ammunition fired by the very popular Ruger 22-10 semi-automatic rifle. Really sweet piece of work.

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2 thoughts on “Ammo 2.

  1. Funny. “Parental malpractice” applies very widely to social problems. I’m supposed to give a talk for Constitution Day. So, I said I would talk about the Second Amendment. Maybe I” just show this.

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