An agreement between the Army and one of the country’s largest ammunition manufacturers is receiving new scrutiny over a little-known provision that allows a government facility to produce hundreds of millions of bullets for the retail market.
For more than a decade, contracts between the Pentagon and a number of private companies have allowed one Army site, the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant, to become one of the world’s largest commercial suppliers of ammunition cartridges. AR-15 type firearms.
Built during World War II near Kansas City, Missouri, to supply the U.S. military, in recent years the plant has directed most of its production to the commercial market, including sales to retailers, law enforcement agencies and foreign governments.
A New York Times investigation published this month traced rounds from Lake City to a dozen mass shootings and many other crimes across the country since 2012.
After the Times article, several members of Congress questioned the benefits of the Army’s agreement with Olin Winchester, the current contractor, and demanded more information from the Army.
In a letter sent Friday to the Secretary of the Army, Rep. Robert Garcia, D-Calif., said that “federal subsidies may be artificially increasing the availability of ammunition in the civilian market and contributing to serious violence by private citizens.” .
The letter continued: “This raises serious questions about the role the Department of the Army has played in subsidizing the firearms industry and the level of oversight the Department has exercised in supporting plant operations.”
Mr. Garcia cited the Times report, as well as a Bloomberg report published later. article about Lake City.
Another Democratic House member, Betty McCollum of Minnesota, also expressed concern about Lake City’s “disturbing use” of ammunition in mass shootings.
“More questions need to be asked and answered about how this ammunition is marketed to the American public,” he said in a statement. “I will request a report from the Army on how contracts are awarded at this plant.”
While the Army has made commercial munitions production in Lake City public, it has hidden the scale, arguing that the information is confidential and can only be disclosed by the contractor. That secrecy has prevented substantial public oversight of the contract.
The Army says the deal, which requires contractors to maintain the ability to produce about 1.6 billion rounds of ammunition a year, is vital to national security and has saved taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. The Pentagon has invested more than $860 million to upgrade and maintain the plant over the past two decades, The Times previously reported.
The Times investigation found that Lake City bullets, which are normally stamped with the plant’s initials, “LC,” were used in massacres, including at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado; a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas; a high school in Parkland, Florida; and an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. They have also appeared in a variety of other criminal investigations, from robberies to murders of police officers. Authorities have seized bullets from drug dealers, motorcycle gangs, violent criminals and rioters at the U.S. Capitol.
Earlier this month, Garcia, along with Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, introduced a bill aimed at imposing more controls on ammunition sales, which largely They are unregulated, requiring sellers to obtain a federal license and conduct background checks on buyers. It would also limit bulk sales of ammunition and prevent so-called straw purchases, in which a buyer with a clean record turns around and sells to someone else.
In a statement, Warren criticized the Lake City contract and called for “meaningful oversight” from Congress.
“It is unacceptable that the United States government is in the business of manufacturing military-grade ammunition to sell to civilians,” he said.
The revelations have also sparked outrage from gun control advocates and families of shooting victims.
Fred Gutenberg, father of a high school student murdered in Parkland, Florida, wrote on social media: “Knowing that Lake City Rounds like this were possibly used to kill my daughter and that the sale may have been subsidized by the US government “The US is difficult.” to understand.”