AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Police chiefs in Central Texas say they're having trouble arming their officers due to shortages of assault rifles and ammunition.
One police department has instructed its officers to try cutting back on ammunition used during training, the Austin American-Statesmen reported (http://bit.ly/XCXsTt), while another department has been waiting for new assault rifles for months.
Part of the problem, some say, is that gun stores are seeing strong sales in the wake of last month's Connecticut school massacre that left 20 children dead, as well as talk that federal officials will try to pass new restrictions on gun sales.
"This is panic buying," said Dayne Pryor, the chief in the Austin suburb of Rollingwood. "People don't realize that it affects law enforcement just like the people buying guns at Academy."
Police departments in larger cities can make deals and buy well in advance to ensure a steady supply, the newspaper reported. But smaller departments have been forced to take measures to conserve or change how they use weapons.
Round Rock police have been waiting for new tactical rifles since October. Buda is on a waiting list for more ammo. And Pflugerville police recently instructed its officers in a memo to conserve ammunition during training, according to a city spokeswoman.
Gun shop owners are reporting higher sales, and although most vendors in the industry prioritize sales to the military and law enforcement, guns often sell for more in retail.
"All my suppliers are out of guns and ammunition because they have been bought up," said Casey Wagnon, a manager at Tex-Guns in Austin. "I know manufacturers are making them as quick as they can, but as long as demand is up, they sell out just as quick."
Rollingwood's police department decided to buy Bushmaster .223 rifles to modernize its weapons after the Newtown, Conn., shootings, Pryor told the newspaper. He said he was worried that his officers, who currently carry M-16s as patrol rifles, won't have the best equipment in the event of a similar school shooting.
"If an incident were to happen at one of the schools close by, we're most likely going to be first in," Pryor said. "We want to make sure we have the best stuff for that."
Information from: Austin American-Statesman, http://www.statesman.com