ALCOA (WATE) – A nationwide ammunition shortage poses a potential threat to local public safety.
At local gun shops like Smoky Mountain Firearms, the ammo shelves are empty. It's the result of panic buying.
"I think a lot of them are scared. They don't know when they won't be able to get it anymore," said owner Tim Lacy, describing the phenomenon.
The shortage is also affecting law enforcement agencies in the state.
Several local police departments are having a hard time getting the bullets that go into their guns.
"When we placed our orders in the past, it would generally take about a week to get the order into the department. Now we're looking at two to four months," explained Alcoa Police Department Lt. Joe Thornhill.
Officers say if the shortage continues it will affect the amount of time they train. That would ultimately affect crime fighting readiness.
The Tennessee Highway Patrol ordered ammo in August 2012, but still hasn't received the delivery.
"I would hate to think we'd ever see the time come when we couldn't get enough ammo for our officers to carry on the streets, and THP is a much larger agency that ours," said Lt. Thornhill.
The recent spike in the cost of ammunition could also affect law enforcement agency budgets, Lt. Thornhill says.
The run on ammo is affecting the people who need it the most.
"I would hope that we would not come to the point where our supplies are so low that it would endanger the public we serve and officers doing the job," Lt. Thornhill said.
Most of the local sheriff and police departments 6 News spoke to say their ammunition inventory is adequate right now.
They have ammo stocked for the next several months, but if the shortage continues, it could become a serious problem.
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