WASHINGTON -- As private gun and ammunition sales skyrocket, Uncle Sam is buying too and in bulk. The Department of Homeland Security is purchasing 1.6 billion rounds of ammunition, enough ammo for 24 years of the Iraq War.
Homeland Security officials said it will be used for training and arming border patrol and other law enforcement agents. But the buying spree is fueling sinister theories that have gone viral.
Some predict a government arms race against Americans.
In a letter, Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Calif. and 13 of his colleagues asked Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano "why ammunition purchases on such an astonishing scale are taking place," as the Obama administration works to ban so-called assault rifles and high capacity magazines.
LaMalfa questioned the agency's timing.
"The extraordinary level of ammunition purchases made by Homeland Security seems to have created an extreme shortage of ammunition to the point where many gun owners are unable to purchase any," he wrote.
At least one federal official said buying in bulk makes sense because its cheaper. Some Homeland Security training centers go through 15 million rounds a year.
The National Rifle Association addressed the rumors and concerns in a written statement on their NRA-ILA site, and concluded there isn't any reason for worry.
"There are more than enough threats to the Second Amendment to keep gun owners busy...there's no need to invent additional threats to our rights," they said.
But it's easy for many people to question the government, according to a March 12 Pew Research poll. The report claims that "73 percent have little confidence in the government and 53 percent of Americans say the government is a threat to their rights."
Adding to the mistrust of some Americans is the increasing expectation that drones will soon pepper American airspace over homes and businesses.
Drone technology becomes more stealth everyday as state governments and Congress scramble to figure out how to protect privacy and ensure Americans they won't become targets of armed drones on American soil.
"The president's response? He hasn't killed anyone yet. He goes on to say, 'I have no intention of killing Americans, but I might,'" Sen. Rand Paul R-Ky., charged.
Paul became a hero of sorts to many when he drew attention to the president's policy of using drones with his famous filIbuster of the confirmation of now CIA Director John Brennan.
The Kentucky lawmaker wanted assurances that the federal government wouldn't use them to fire upon Americans on American soil.
"Are we so complacent with our rights that we would allow a president to say he might kill Americans?" he said.
Now lawmakers from both parties are debating how to use drones. They're trying to balance the benefits, like finding missing persons against potential costs, or watching citizens without their knowledge.
"There is a subjective element of harm to being, living in a society where you feel like you're under surveillance," Ryan Calo, an assistant professor at the University of Washington School of Law, said.
Aimie Stepanovich, EPIC Domestic Surveillance Project, warned "there are already images online of a mosquito drone being developed by the National Security Agency and them trying to figure out what technology they can put on it to make small enough to put on it."
"So at some point you could have one the size of a mosquito that has a battery that operates for weeks, and you could have a mosquito following you around and not be aware of it," Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., said.
Critics say it's uncharted territory that has many Americans on edge and suspicious about their government's motives.