In Depth: Deadly Hoarding - Hoarding Week

By Timothy Dillon

Photo by Moaksey.

Here’s a simple allegory of childhood innocence for you. Suspend disbelief for a moment and imagine a teddy bear on your bed. Now name your bed buddy and thank him, because he also is holding a bag of Skittles, M&Ms for the chocolate fiends, or maybe a packet of gum. Your bear comes with your favorite particular brand of multi-serving candy pouch. Have fun with this illustration, it’s about to get interesting.

Now, suppose you are a hoarder, one fond of both sugar and stuffed bears.

Whatever ridiculous hoarder hall you dreamed up, it should have 300 million bears in it, all chock full of candy. You might start to think you have a problem. Anyone with a basic knowledge of human health would say that this presents a host of risks, beyond suffocation from all those fluffy bears.

Now, indulge me one last time and consider that each of these teddy bears is, instead, a gun.

The candies (the Skittles, Hershey’s Kisses, or packs of gum) are different magazine sizes and calibers, and for those of you whose imagination is really active, different sized bears represent the different types of weapons. Now you are actually the United States, which has an estimate of 300 million different kinds of guns in circulation. That is nearly a gun for every man, woman, and child with a truly unfathomable number of bullets, enough ammunition to end every man, woman, and child without a doubt.

This exercise is not actually meant as a scare tactic. Sure, guns are frightening, but so is any object that’s sole purpose is to kill a thing. A gun is a weapon and weapons come with an inherent fear. This exercise is to help understand the sheer amount we are dealing with. It’s important to keep that in mind, because the United States, as a society, could easily be diagnosed with hoarding if those guns were still bears.

Departing the pretentious activity of drawing conclusions about an entire country, lets consider some interesting numbers. Since Obama’s initial election to the presidency and subsequent reelection, the number of guns bought and sold has spiked, and everyone is buying ammunition. Jim Pruett, owner of Jim Pruett’s Guns and Ammo stated in an interview with The Houston Chronicle that, “We haven’t been able to keep up with it. It’s beyond our wildest imagination.”

In fact, it has become such a distinguished trend, that law enforcement officials will have difficulty maintaining their stores of ammunition. Smaller agencies and local police forces can’t keep up with the bullets flying off the shelves. Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is also in on this bullet hoarding craze, ordering an estimated 1.6 billion rounds of ammunition over the next four to five years.

The speculation surrounding the boom in civilian ammunition hoarding has concluded that it is a direct response to Obama’s presidency, because a pro gun control administration could limit Average Joe’s ability to get ammo. So people come out in droves to make sure they will be prepared when guns and bullets are harder to obtain. What exactly they will be prepared for is sort of a mystery.

On the flip side are the theorists who like to point out that the DHS has enough ammo to wage a war with the American people. This seems like a blatant attempt at sensationalized propaganda against the federal government. However, the fear was perpetuated by the DHS through their silence. Apparently talking to Congress about the nature of the purchases, as well as the reasons was not a top priority for the department. What this all amounts to is a domestic arms race, where people are afraid of government limiting fire power to themselves, and a government who can’t arm a branch of national security without scrutiny.

Now, hoarding bullets and ammunition does not fit the classic definitions of the psychological condition known as compulsive hoarding. We can examine hoarders and point out their similarities to obsessive compulsion or major depression disorders, but it seems that when we try to scrutinize how people treat guns and ammunition, the entitlement surrounding these weapons defuses the inquiry. Yet we are reading headlines saying that our government and our gun-toting neighbors are hoarding bullets. Why can we not question the sanity of this behavior?

At the end of the day, more and more people are purchasing guns. A run down of the numbers shows us that we live in a country so saturated with guns that it would be fair to call the US the world leader in gun hoarding. Nearly half, 47 percent, of the country owns at least one gun. It used to be that 60 percent of Americans wanted to ban handguns, now it’s a mere 26 percent. We are number one in private gun ownership in the world, and to go with all those guns, are all the bullets.