Conservatives Revive Ridiculous Conspiracy Theory About Government Ammo Stockpiling

The Drudge Report and Fox Nation are promoting an outlandish report from conspiracy theorist Alex Jones' website Infowars that suggests a sinister purpose behind a Department of Homeland Security procurement request for 141,160 rounds of .308 rifle ammunition.

Jones and his website have long fearmongered about the government's bulk purchase of ammunition. Conservative media outlets and Republican politicians have followed Jones' lead and run wild with the conspiracy, suggesting that the government was preparing for widespread civil unrest, attempting to limit the civilian ammo supply, or even planning to wage war against Americans. The conspiracy even inspired a Republican-led House Oversight Committee hearing and Republican-backed legislation to limit government ammunition purchases. 

The latest iteration of the conspiracy theory is especially laughable for the amount of ammunition involved. Infowars kicked off its original conspiracy theory in 2012 with the claim that DHS planned to purchase 450 million rounds of ammunition. The claim was then amplified by Drudge Report. While the bulk purchase -- an effort to save taxpayer money -- seemed large, it was in fact easily explained.

The contract, which actually called for the purchase of up to 450 million rounds over five years, would only provide the 100,000 law enforcement agents that serve DHS and its subsidiaries a maximum of 900 rounds per year, hardly an unusual figure for law enforcement agents who need to show proficiency with a firearm. According to DHS, the amount of ammunition purchased by the agency -- which comprises just a small fraction of the overall ammo market -- has actually fallen since 2010:

[Department of Homeland Security via Sen. Coburn's Office, January 2013]

Given these figures, DHS's purchase of 141,000 rounds of .308 ammunition would only provide each agent one to two rounds, or would allow approximately 156 agents to use 900 rounds in a year.

With their claims about “sniper ammo,” Fox Nation and Drudge Report also revived the tactic of fearmongering about the type of ammunition being purchased. During conservative media hysteria over the 450 million round contract, promoters of the conspiracy theory often raised the fact that the order called for hollow point ammunition, which according to the National Rifle Association is popular with members of federal and state law enforcement, as well as the general public.

While the .308 is certainly a powerful rifle round that is used in police sharpshooting, like hollow point ammunition it is also available to the public and used for hunting and target shooting.

The new “sniper ammo” conspiracy is largely contained within the fringe conservative media, but its promotion by Drudge Report is notable, as the conservative website has for years served as a pipeline for Alex Jones' outlandish conspiracies to a wider media audience.