Debunking Palin's Already-Debunked "Bullets" Conspiracy

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Feb. 27 2013 3:03 PM

Sarah Palin's New Conspiracy Theory Was Debunked Before She Even Wrote About It

Sarah Palin's latest claim was debunked before she even wrote about it

Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

I'll make this quick because, as many of you will no doubt note in the Comments, the Internet seems to spend more time than it should discussing the exploits of an almost-one-term governor turned talking head turned talking head without a cable news contract. But given how much attention Sarah Palin's latest Facebook post has gotten, it's probably worth the two minutes it takes to debunk one of its more outlandish claims—especially given the conspiracy theory was already debunked before she even wrote about it.

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

Here's the snippet in question, which was part of a sequester-related post that went live yesterday and has already garnered more than 57,000-odd likes:

If we are going to wet our proverbial pants over 0.3% in annual spending cuts when we’re running up trillion dollar annual deficits, then we’re done. Put a fork in us. We’re finished. We’re going to default eventually and that’s why the feds are stockpiling bullets in case of civil unrest.

So is the federal government actually stocking up on bullets "in case of civil unrest"? Um, in a word, no. In a few more, via an Associated Press article from two weeks ago explaining the real reason that federal agencies have been buying extra ammo lately*:

Online rumors about a big government munitions purchase are true, sort of. The Homeland Security Department wants to buy more than 1.6 billion rounds of ammunition in the next four or five years. It says it needs them—roughly the equivalent of five bullets for every person in the United States—for law enforcement agents in training and on duty. ...
Federal solicitations to buy the bullets are known as “strategic sourcing contracts,” which help the government get a low price for a big purchase, says Peggy Dixon, spokeswoman for the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Ga. The training center and others like it run by the Homeland Security Department use as many as 15 million rounds every year, mostly on shooting ranges and in training exercises.

Snopes (h/t Atlantic Wire), which tracks Internet conspiracy theories, pinpoints the start of the "stockpiling" rumor to an anonymous email that began making the rounds this past summer after the government published similar federal notices alerting the public to the fact that it was making large-scale ammo purchases (something that would be a questionable strategy if, you know, the government was actually prepping to use military force to quash civil unrest). Those rumors eventually bubbled up on conservative talk radio, with Alex Jones warning last fall of an "arms race against the American people."

So to recap: Yes, the government is buying bullets. But, no, such a move is not out of the ordinary given that more than a few federal employees are armed as part of their jobs. (If you want to assume that any large-scale purchase of weaponry by the U.S. government is proof of such a conspiracy, you probably have bigger things to worry about.) Also: Sarah Palin's Facebook wall probably isn't the best place to find a nuanced discussion of Washington's budgetary policy.

*Correction: An earlier version of this post credited the article to the Washington Post. It was written by the AP's Alicia A. Caldwell, but ran in the Post (among other outlets).

***Follow @JoshVoorhees and the rest of the @slatest team on Twitter.***



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