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Elkhart County Sheriff Bradley Rogers speaks at a July 11, 2012, press conference at the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department. Rogers told the Elkhart County Council on Saturday that he wants to use gun permit fees to buy targets and bullets for his officers. “Bullets are like gold right now,” he said. (Truth Photo By Evey Wilson, File) (AP)
Ammo shortages don’t worry sheriff; economic officials want to lure bullet and gun makers

Posted on April 13, 2013 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on April 13, 2013 at 2:15 p.m.

GOSHEN — Though a combination of factors put the squeeze on bullet supplies, the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department isn’t worried, and economic development professionals are looking at it as a chance to bring some firepower here.

Sheriff Brad Rogers spoke with the Elkhart County Council Saturday morning, explaining that he wants to use gun permit fees to buy targets and bullets for his officers. “Bullets are like gold right now,” Rogers said.

The push by some federal officials for tighter firearms restrictions has led to a run on bullets nationwide. It’s also led to a huge jump in gun permit applications here. “In January we issued more permits than we did for all of 2012,” Rogers told the council. While the numbers have dropped off, “it’s still a pretty good demand,” he said.

That pressure is coupled with huge purchase contracts by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and bullets have been scarce. Law enforcement agencies in other parts of the country are cutting back on firearms training because of it, the Associated Press has reported.

That’s not a concern for the sheriff, though. “I’m kind of a preparedness nut. We have plenty of supplies for a couple of years,” Rogers said.

He’s not thrilled with the large purchase orders put in by DHS, though he noted federal officials haven’t made all the purchases. Councilman Dave Foutz joked, “So you could say they haven’t pulled the trigger on that?”

Council President John Letherman, though, said, “The question is, has Homeland Security become somebody’s private army?”

Rogers said, “I think for the sake of our liberty, we need to watch that.”

The government routinely buys products in bulk to reduce costs, and Homeland Security has said the latest purchases are no different. Last year, the department put out bids for about 1.6 billion rounds of ammunition over the next five years. The rounds will be used for training, routine weapons qualification exercises and normal duty by various department agencies.

Meanwhile, as New York and Connecticut crack down on firearms and ammunition purchases, the Economic Development Corp. of Elkhart County sees it as an opportunity, said Dorinda Heiden-Guss.

The EDC has reached out to ammunition and gun manufacturers, hoping to convince them to move here as the climate becomes more unfriendly in other areas. Magpul and Colt are companies the EDC hopes to lure here, she said.

“We have 46.5 percent manufacturing here, so we know how it’s done,” she said. In addition, Indiana “is such a business-friendly state,” she said.

In fact, she said, the state economic development corp. also is reaching out to attract manufacturers here.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.