ELLSWORTH, Maine — The National Weather Service is not looking to stockpile hollow-point ammunition and targets, officials said Wednesday afternoon after bloggers and media outlets across the nation reported the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was looking to purchase 46,000 rounds of ammunition.
Under the federal solicitation listing those Web outlets saw, 8,000 .40-caliber Smith & Wesson jacketed hollow-point bullets were supposed to go to a National Weather Service office in Ellsworth — which doesn’t exist. However, there is a NOAA Fisheries Office of Law Enforcement in Ellsworth, with officers who need ammunition for firearms qualifications tests and training. That office was the intended recipient of the shipment of bullets, according to NOAA.
NOAA attributes the mistake to “a clerical error in the federal business vendor process,” which meant the solicitor for the ammunition was incorrectly listed as the National Weather Service rather than NOAA’s law enforcement division, according to Lesli Bales-Sherrod, spokeswoman for NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement.
The error was being corrected Wednesday afternoon, Bales-Sherrod said.
Along with the 8,000 rounds requested for the Ellsworth officers, 8,000 rounds were requested for an office in Massachusetts, 24,000 rounds for Florida and 6,000 rounds for New Jersey.
The National Weather Service began fielding questions Tuesday about why it would need gun ammunition, and NOAA set out to explain the misstep.
Maine and Massachusetts offices also are seeking 200 practice targets each, with the New Jersey location asking for an additional 100 targets.
“NOAA officers and agents enforce the nation’s ocean and fishing laws to ensure a level playing field for fishermen and to protect marine species like whales, dolphins and turtles,” Bales-Sherrod said.
Hollow-point bullets, which are designed to expand when they strike their target, are standard issue for many law enforcement agencies, including the 63 NOAA law enforcement personnel that will use the rounds for their firearms qualifications and training, according to Bales-Sherrod.
The Internet was rife with headlines ranging from the Washington Times’ “Hail of bullets? National Weather Service says ammo request was ‘clerical error’” to The Free Republic’s “Weather Service Buys 46000 Rounds of Illegal Hollow Point Bullets.”
Representatives of the National Weather Service offices in Gray and Caribou said Wednesday evening they hadn’t received any confused or concerned calls since the errant NOAA posting.