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Army munitions factory linked to mass shootings faces new scrutiny

A deal between the Army and one of the nation’s largest munitions makers is under new scrutiny because of a little-known provision allowing a government facility to produce hundreds of millions of rounds of ammunition for the market Retail.

For more than a decade, contracts between the Pentagon and a series of private companies helped an Army site, the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant, become one of the largest commercial suppliers of cartridges for AR-15 type weapons to the world.

Built during World War II near Kansas City, Mo., to supply the U.S. military, the plant has in recent years shifted the majority of its production to the commercial market, including sales to retailers, military forces, order and to foreign governments.

A New York Times investigation published this month traced Lake City’s rounds to a dozen mass shootings and numerous other crimes across the country since 2012.

After the Times article, several members of Congress questioned the benefits of the deal between the Army and Olin Winchester, the current contractor, and demanded more information from the Army.

In a letter Friday to the Army secretary, Rep. Robert Garcia, a California Democrat, said “federal subsidies could artificially increase the availability of munitions in the civilian market and contribute to serious violence by private citizens.”

The letter continues: “This raises serious questions about the role that the Department of the Army has played in subsidizing the firearms industry and the level of oversight that the Department has exercised to support the operations of the ‘factory. »

Mr. Garcia cited the Times’ reporting, as well as a later Bloomberg report. article on Lake City.

Another Democratic House member, Betty McCollum of Minnesota, also expressed concern about Lake City’s “disturbing use” of munitions in mass shootings.

“More questions need to be asked and answered about how this ammunition is marketed to the American public,” she said in a statement. “I will request a briefing from the Army on how contracts are awarded at this factory.”

Although the Army has made commercial munitions production at Lake City public, it has obscured the scale of that production, arguing that the information is confidential and can only be released by the contractor. This secrecy prevented substantial public oversight of the contract.

The military says the deal, which requires contractors to maintain capacity to produce about 1.6 billion rounds of ammunition annually, is vital to national security and has saved taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars . The Pentagon has invested more than $860 million in improving and maintaining the plant over the past two decades, the Times reported earlier.

The Times investigation found that Lake City cartridges, which typically bear the factory’s initials, “LC,” were used in mass killings, including at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado; a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas; a high school in Parkland, Florida; and an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. They have also appeared in various other criminal investigations, ranging from robberies to police killings. Authorities seized bullets from drug dealers, biker gangs, violent criminals and rioters at the U.S. Capitol.

Earlier this month, Mr. Garcia, along with Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, introduced a bill to strengthen controls on ammunition sales – which are largely unregulated – requiring sellers to obtain a federal license and to conduct background checks on buyers. It would also limit wholesale sales of ammunition and prevent so-called straw purchases, in which a buyer with a clean criminal record turns around and sells to someone else.

In a statement, Warren criticized the Lake City contract and called for “meaningful oversight” from Congress.

“It is unconscionable that the U.S. government is manufacturing military-grade munitions to sell to civilians,” she said.

The revelations also sparked outrage among gun control advocates and the families of the shooting victims.

Fred Guttenberg, the father of a high school student killed in Parkland, Florida, wrote on social media: “Learning that Lake City Rounds like this may have been used to kill my daughter and that the sale may have -Being subsidized by the US government is difficult. to understand.”

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