Army Plant Sells AR-15 Ammo to Civilians, Drawing Scrutiny

Members of Congress sound alarm after 'NYT' reporting
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 21, 2023 6:05 PM CST
Army Plant Sells AR-15 Ammo to Civilians, Drawing Scrutiny
This round produced at the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant carries the initials "LC" and the number "99," indicating the year of its manufacture.   (Wikimedia/Static-rat)

Members of Congress are calling for a detailed examination of a deal that allows a US Army plant to supply ammunition for AR-15-style weapons, including ammo used in numerous mass shootings, to the commercial market. A New York Times investigation published this month and based on more than 1 million pages of law enforcement records found ammunition from the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant near Kansas City, Mo., which carries a distinctive "LC" marking on the casing, had been used in at least a dozen mass shootings in the US since 2012—including the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and the 2022 shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas—as well as in the murders of police officers.

Built during World War II, the plant, which has received $860 million from the Pentagon for improvements over the last 20 years, maintains the ability to produce some 1.6 billion rounds of ammo each year under a contract with the Army. It's "the largest producer of small-arms munitions within the Department of Defense," according to the Kansas City District of the US Army Corps of Engineers. But that's something of a side business. Since the 1990s, the plant has supplied ammo to the commercial market with little public oversight, per the Times. As of 2020, as much as 66% of ammunition produced at the facility entered the commercial market, according to the Times' reporting. It's been seized from violent felons, rioters at the US Capitol, and people who threatened to shoot US politicians, per the Times.

On Friday, Rep. Robert Garcia (D-Calif.) wrote to the Army Secretary, noting "federal subsidies may be artificially increasing the availability of ammunition in the civilian marketplace and contributing to serious violence by private citizens," per the Times. Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) also flagged "the disturbing use" of the ammunition, adding she would request "a briefing from the Army on how the contracts are issued at this plant." Sen. Elizabeth Warren, meanwhile, called for "meaningful oversight" by Congress, saying "it's unconscionable for the US government to be in the business of making military-grade ammunition to sell to civilians." Only last month, the Kansas City District of the US Army Corps of Engineers quoted a project manager as saying "potentially billions of dollars" could flow into the ammunition plant over the next decade. (More ammunition stories.)

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