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Laws, rumors have ammo flying off store shelves

ALBANY, N.Y. — Gun enthusiasts fearful of new weapons controls and alarmed by rumors of government hoarding are buying bullets practically by the bushel, making it hard for stores nationwide to keep shelves stocked and even putting a pinch on some law enforcement departments.

At a 24-hour Walmart in suburban Albany, the ammunition cabinet was three-fourths empty this week; clerks said customers must arrive before 9 the morning after a delivery to get what they want. A few miles away, Dick’s Sporting Goods puts up a red rope after ammunition deliveries so buyers can line up early to get a number, averting races up the escalator to the gun counter. Both stores are limiting ammunition purchases to three boxes a day.

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In mid-January, two days after New York became the first state to toughen laws after the Newtown, Conn., school massacre, Mark Smith spent $250 to stockpile ammunition, including $43 for a brick of 500 .22-caliber bullets, commonly used for target shooting and hunting small game.

‘‘I had a feeling there was going to be a huge ammunition shortage,’’ Smith said.

The run started in November with President Obama’s reelection, followed by the mass shooting in December in Newtown, which led the president to launch an effort to strengthen federal gun controls and several states to tighten their laws.

Connecticut’s governor signed a bill Thursday — effective immediately — that adds more than 100 firearms to the state’s assault weapons ban, creates an offender registry, and institutes eligibility rules for ammunition purchases.

Hours before the law took effect, customers streamed out of Hoffman’s Gun Center in Newington, Conn., with purchases.

Some attribute shortages to federal buying of bullets, accusing officials of trying to hoard a billion rounds and disarm the populace. The government routinely buys products in bulk; Homeland Security said the latest purchases are no different.

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