Police departments are facing ammunition shortages across the nation and the East Peoria Police Department is no exception.
“It became a concern of ours in the department after the Connecticut shooting,” Sgt. Chad LaCost said.
After the Sandy Hook School tragedy in which a lone gunman killed 20 children and six staff members before shooting himself, LaCost said he believes fear is sweeping the nation. This fear is having a ripple effect of people arming themselves, leading to increased prices and a shortage of both guns and ammunition.
LaCost said it is difficult to purchase a weapon at this point.
“It's caused the cost of ammunition to go up and there's less to acquire,” he said.
This is a problem for the police department because they cannot train based on their normal schedule.
Since there are no state bids for ammunition or weapons like there are for squad cars, police departments are at the mercy of those gun and ammo business owners.
However, from a private business standpoint, LaCost understands that gun and ammo owners are in business to make a profit.
“I won't say (the ammo shortage) poses a threat but it poses a significant problem for us,” LaCost said.
Another problem may arise in May when the city begins its budget. The East Peoria Police Department is still looking for a vendor to purchase ammunition from and have to secure a quantity and price.
“It's a problem when you try to create a budget that you have to responsibly operate in and then you have the problem of attaining the ammo. .... then you have a training issue where you have to train officers but if you can't get bullets to put in guns, then you have an issue. If you can't get rounds, then you can't qualify (with the state),” said Deputy Chief Shannon Swearingen.
“'When can we get this? What's the price going to be' are unanswered questions,” Swearingen said.
Regarding ordering ammunition, LaCost said for handguns, it is on back order for six to nine months. Likewise, rifle ammunition is on back order for 12-13 months. The department doesn't need as much duty ammunition as training ammunition, but that is also on back order for an unspecified amount of time.
This may impact officer's training. LaCost, who recently took over the range training program, said officers have to do a certain number of range practices per year.
“Potentially, we're going to have to limit that now,” he said. “We have a video simulator we can use. It records the officer's shots ... but you obviously don't get the feel of the recoil and so forth.”
LaCost said in light of the recent mass shooting in Connecticut, the police department is updating its training to be as proficient as possible.
Page 2 of 2 - “It seems every two weeks there's some type of shooting,” LaCost said, adding that these occurrences are not just limited to schools.
“It's constantly in the media,” he said.
So, LaCost, speaking as a citizen and not as a police officer, said he understands why people want to arm themselves.
“I personally support (concealed carry). Stats across the country have shown that concealed carry impacts crime in a positive way,” he said.
LaCost said he thinks criminals would be less likely to rob someone if they think that individual might be packing heat.
Currently, there is a hot debate about guns. Recently, President Barack Obama proposed to Congress to tighten gun laws. LaCost said he has not yet become familiar with the President's plan, but he thinks the focus should be on people, not guns.
Chicago is an example LaCost used to stress his point. He said there is a high murder rate there even though there are gun restrictions.
“Criminals acquire guns illegally,” he said.
“A gun, if you put it in the hands of an unstable person, is a very bad thing,” LaCost said. ... “Society is trying to rationalize these people who are irrational.”
LaCost thinks this rationalization is a stumbling block, yet he stated there is no easy fix to the problem.
“I think there needs to be more focus toward health, mental health,” he said. “I don't blame guns, I blame the person.”
For example, LaCost said if a drunk driver kills someone on the highway, people don't blame the vehicle or the liquor, they blame the driver.
Yet, in the case of mass shootings, LaCost said society is trying to hold the gun company liable. If guns were removed from the scenario, LaCost said those bent on evil would still find a way.
There is one thing that LaCost will not debate: the Columbine and Connecticut tragedies redefined our country.