Buying A Ton Of Guns On The Internet Is Cheap, Legal, And Shockingly Easy

If you're a terrorist, a guerrilla, or are aspiring toward either, The Armory might be your gun depot of choice. But for anyone not on the government's radar, 100-per cent legal, open websites are all you need to plan an American massacre. This is a little scary.

Editor's note: This is a follow-up feature to Sam's awesome piece on The Armory. Thankfully, the purchase of guns, ammunition and other accessories in Australia is highly regulated, and importation of illegal firearms is closely monitored by the hard-working men and women of the Customs and Border Protection Service who don't miss a beat. This article is for informational purposes, and despite it's US-centric focus, it's a fascinating insight into how easy it is for anyone to get their hands on a gun in the US.

It doesn't appear James Holmes broke any laws of the US or Colorado until he allegedly opened fire in that crowded theatre. Up until that point, he was just another guy accumulating multiple firearms, bullet-maximising accessories, and thousands upon thousands of bullets. All it took to create a cache of weapons capable of mass murder was time, money, and internet savvy -- three things most Americans have at least some of.

With only Google and a few nouns, you can find everything you need to kill lots of people.

Plug a few simple search terms in, and a bevy of eager online merchants will ring you up. Unlike The Armory, there's no need for encryption software and no need for secrecy. What you're doing is either enshrined in the glistening gunmetal sanctity of the 2nd Amendment, or in a regulatory void, either super-legal or ignored. The bottom line is you can get it all with a few clicks. It might even show up at your doorstep within days.


With the exception of military-grade machine guns, you can buy virtually any kind of firearm online, including the Bushmaster AR-15 allegedly used by James Holmes -- a semi-auto rifle that'll blast a shot with every pull of the trigger, shooting as quickly as you can move your finger.

Let's take BudsGunShop -- one of countless online weapons dealers. It's entirely on the level, with a brick and mortar HQ in Lexington, Kentucky. It even has a Pinterest button.

Bud's will sell you this semi-automatic Adcor defence B.E.A.R., for a little over $US1,500. Shipping is free. An AR-15 can be snapped up for under $US900.

If that's beyond your budget, you can still get semi-automatic action for around $US500, with the Heckler & Koch Rimfire 416 -- a variant of a weapon deployed by US Army forces in Iraq.

A semi-auto Glock 17 will run you $US500 each. Holmes allegedly carried two, along with a Remington 870 shotgun: available for $US325. There's even a "VIP Club" for expedited shipping:

"** Fast Track" orders placed by 12:00 PM EST will ship within one business day (excludes weekends) ."

But amassing an armoury isn't as easy as stuffing all these weapons in your shopping cart and beaming over your credit card information. Guns can't be shipped directly to your house. A federally licensed dealer needs to act as a proxy. Most websites, like Bud's, already have a list of approved "FFL" dealers in your area for you to choose from a dropdown menu. The website will take your money and ship the gun to the dealer, the dealer collects a fee. Then you show up at the dealership for a telephone or internet background check, and if you're not a convicted felon, off you go. But don't worry, this background check is a piece of cake. In fact, despite being mandated from one of the few tough gun laws on the books, you'll hardly notice the<a href="" National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) at all:

"The FFLs will provide the descriptive information requested on the ATF Form 4473, which is required by law to be completed and signed by every prospective firearm transferee. The FFL will receive a response that the transfer may proceed or is delayed. This response is typically provided within 30 seconds. If no matching records are returned by any of the databases, the transaction is automatically proceeded."

The guns are then legally yours for the shooting, so long as you're not a criminal, fugitive or insane. You might, however, have to do a little IRL legwork if you want to pick up more than one without setting off alarms.

Laws vary from state to state as to how many guns you can purchase at once from the same dealer -- this might explain why James Holmes bought his first Glock in May, and then went back again shortly before his alleged shooting spree to buy another. But as there's no central government database to track any of this stuff, if you send your online purchases to a few different physical FFL dealers nearby, you won't have any trouble at all. Ben Van Houten of the Law centre to Prevent Gun Violence explains just how easily this gear can be picked up:

"Under federal law, there is no waiting period required between gun sales. A dealer may transfer a firearm to a prospective purchaser as soon as he or she passes a background check. Federal law also does not limit the number of guns a person can buy in any given time period. Federal law does require licensed firearms dealers to report multiple sales of handguns to ATF [Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms agency], although ATF is not charged with any investigative duties regarding those sales."

Unlimited purchases and free shipping? It sounds disturbingly like Amazon Prime, only for deadly weapons instead of books and socks.

If you know someone who's willing to privately sell you a gun -- someone without any kind of licence to deal, whatsoever -- that's even easier in almost every state. "Federal law only requires persons who are "engaged in the business" of dealing in firearms to be licensed," explains Van Houten. "Private sellers are not subject to the federal laws regulating gun dealers." A recent NYC government report cited the same fact before stating that private online sales were rampant and dangerous:

Only licensed gun dealers, also known as federal firearms licensees (FFLs), are required to conduct checks and keep paperwork on buyers. Because private sellers

– individuals who are not "engaged in the business" of selling firearms but who make "occasional sales" from private collections — are presumed to be hobbyists, they have no obligation to conduct checks.

You can even use Craigslist.

...or Facebook.


You'll have absolutely no trouble buying more of ammunition than it's easy to imagine a sane use for. In fact, you can even buy ammo in bulk. In fact, there's even a website which has literally zero limits on how many bullets it'll sell you, of all varieties -- including hollow-point rounds designed to expand and shred human tissue. It's no wonder Holmes bought his bullets here.

Twenty two thousand rounds of 5.56x45 shells for an AR-15 can be bought en masse for $US8,800. This site isn't the exception -- none of the sites I queried have any purchasing limit. In fact, one seller's customer service rep, after I told her I wanted "all of their bullets," told me they'd be happy to bring in more for me to buy. This jibes with the complete absence of any law regulating or tracking the sale of ammunition in the United States. No law enforcement entity, local, state, or federal, will ever ask why you want or need 22,000 bullets. Or more. Nobody would ask if you -- or you and your friends -- bought 100,000 rounds of ammunition.

If you're interested in buying something that'll allow you to shoot a bigger chunk of your bullet bin before reloading, you'll have to pony up for an extended magazine. That's the bad news. The good news is that only eight states (California, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Ohio) have any laws against bigger mags. In the rest of the union, you're free to buy a 100-round AR-15 ammo drum, which James Holmes allegedly used, and should give you an appreciable tactical advantage over any home intruder and/or deer.


Before embarking on his alleged shooting, Holmes strapped on a ballistic helmet, tactical ballistic vest, ballistic leggings, throat protectors, groin protector, gas mask, and tactical gloves -- enough to let him blend in with the police sent to stop him. The vest -- along with gear to hold extra gun magazines, and a knife -- were purchased at TacticalGear, which sells military-grade armour and clothing. To whom? Pretty much anyone, it would seem, after talking with the company's CEO, Chad Weinman:

We do sell plate carriers and ceramic ballistic plates, which compromise a 'bulletproof vest' but these items are not available to the general public. They require valid law enforcement or military credentials to acquire.

Really? Is that credential requirement mandated by federal law, or is it just company policy?

That's an excellent question Sam. Our suppliers designate specific items, such as ballistic-grade vests, as "restricted." Items with this designation can only be sold to members of the military or law enforcement professionals per the direction of our suppliers. We have always complied with this request. I do not personally know whether or not this is mandated by federal law.

That Weiner's company goes beyond the mandate of the law might sound reassuring, but as he admits, the policy isn't even enforced:

"We do not verify private security contractors or their employees...While we strongly condemn the unspeakable actions of Mr. Holmes, we do not believe that gun, ammunition or tactical gear dealers should be held responsible for the actions of a deranged individual."

No. And even if these apparel stores do start enforcing their own policies, there are almost as many sites selling armour plates and vests as there are bullets to shoot at them; again, Google will point you wherever you need to go. It really is that easy to make your torso cop-proof.

The Bill

To buy every item James Holmes allegedly used to kill 12 people and deliver gunshot wounds to another 71 would cost you $US5,922 -- a song, owing mostly to deep discounts. This is a long way from the $15,000 CBS is citing, so maybe throw in extra for smoke grenades and upgraded weaponry. The point is, with just six grand and an internet connection, you could be equipped with enough gear to rate with one of American history's most atrocious acts.

Whether you call it a tool, or a tube, or the greatest thing mankind has ever put together, the internet is a thing that may have helped a killer quickly amass a relatively inexpensive toolkit for murder. People make the laws and people pull the triggers, but all the metal and wires and pins and coils empower those people. The internet has made guns easier to buy than they've ever been in the history of civilisation. The internet has made 22,000 rounds of rifle ammo, delivered to your doorstep overnight, a thing that's possible. The internet lets you comparison shop shotguns while lying in bed.

The internet was an accessory this horrible tragedy, and that is worth thinking about, no matter what your beliefs.



    Maybe one day, Americans will get bored of burying innocent victims and change their gun laws.

    Really? He Allegedly opened fire? This is what's wrong with America, too afraid of being sued to just state the facts.

      What has that got to do with America ? Until proven guilty the word allegedly is always used, in Australia too. Not saying I agree with it, but that's the way it is. Innocent until proven guilty, no matter what the crime.

      No alleged because there are two photos in the US Media of this 'James Holmes', yet the photos are of two different people.
      As well as the fact that there is no way for Police to identify the actual shooter(s) because they were wearing full body suits and masks.
      No security cameras caught them (somehow) and no witness could see their faces.

    Buying A Ton Of Guns On The Internet Is Cheap, Legal*, And Shockingly Easy

    *Not in this country =)

      " *Not in this country =) "


    Its ok though, I'm sure the FBI is keep close tabs on those suspicious orders of large quantities of fertiliser.

    This shit is also quite disgusting that you can buy things like this so freely in America. Hundreds of years after it was deemed OK for every man to have the right to own a single shot rifle to protect his family does not translate nicely to every man has the right to own semi-automatic rifles for shits and giggles.

    thats why i condone chris rock problem solving method

    make the guns damn cheap
    but the bullets cost 1000 dollars a piece
    so technically you still have your stupid rights to bear arms, you technically still can shoot it

      This! I always think of that part of his standup. There will be no innocent bystanders because it will be too expensive.
      But I guess the black market will then thrive even more.

      Hey that is the same logic that stops me buying a new printer. That ink is way too expensive.....

        Yes! blasted printer shops

      Or we could start tackling the real issues like mental illness and the like rather than looking for cheap* quick fixes.

    But Americans need their M16's for hunting deer.

      .223 is below the legally allowed calibre for taking down a deer "humanely". True story.
      So no, they don't use M16's to hunt deer, unless they're re-barrelled and re-chambered to suit a larger calibre.

        I don't understand which post was the most sarcastic... Well played sir.

    "We take no responsibility" - That just says it all

    I guess the manufacturer of his car was an accessory too. And the government, being the ones responsible for road upkeep.

      Don't forget his mother, and DNA in general. #ucking DNA! When will it all stop, DNA will be the downfall of this planet ..... what do you mean, "um..." :P

      What is the other purpose of the a gun?

    Back in the good old days, I used to buy my ammo from K-Mart. Seriously, K-Mart used to sell .22 rifles and most popular types of ammo, up until some time in the 1980s. Of course, what we've seen since Port Arthur is that now the only civilians with firearms are criminals. Somehow I don't see how that is better than allowing law-abiding citizens to also have weapons.

    It is all summed up nicely in this scene from Fear of a Black Hat. Apologies for the audio. Oh and there is a language warning.

    This is one of the many things I find crazy about the US.
    You get found with a small amount of a plant that makes you hungry and dosile and you get imprisonment, yet, you can legally purchase weapons that you can easily kill a large group of people with.

    " We do not believe that gun, ammunition or tactical gear dealers should be held responsible for the actions of a deranged individual." says the deranged gun dealer

    I was told on facebook by someone in the US that this is one of those times where 'freedom has a horrible and bloody price,' but I asked, 'can't disarmament be the price of freedom?' to which I was told 'you stay there in Australia without guns, and I'll stay here where there are.' OK then. I guess that since war is the chief US export, it makes sense to use the populous as a test bed for weapons. I wonder if James Holmes has been asked to fill out a customer satisfaction card, or give feedback on how he found his purchase. What the anti-gun lobbyists need to do is advertise the products used for massacres and their tallies. "This week's horror story, brought to you by Bushmaster, maker of the Bushmaster AR-15. This brings Bushmaster's confirmed civilian kill count to 7,789, and their injury count to 29,978. Remember, no-one enables the cold blooded murder and perminent disability of innocent men, women and children like Bushmaster!"

    I'm not defending anyone here but I'd like to add that for $6k you could make enough explosives to take out a whole building. And you'd probably only need a trip to a hardware store or chemical supplier.

      Oh how this is so true..

    The FBI are too busy chasing down illegal downloaders too worry about anyone ordering alarming amounts of ammunition/guns.

    Please make it out right here. Gun don't kill people. People kill people. Regardless the country US or Australia. Why you guys don't get it right.

      Crazy people kill people. Crazy people with guns kill a lot more people.

      Oh, and guns do kill people - a lot of them are toddlers. There's far fewer kids dying of knife accidents.

    Geez you gun control nutters are morons! Guess where this happened? In one of your precious GUN FREE ZONES! If someone was conceal carrying no doubt they would have put him down before he did what he did. But no, you lefties had to make sure there was no one there with means to PROTECT THEMSELVES

    Thankfully I have my gun, why shouldn't I be allowed to have a firearm just because some muppet flips out? I bet the cops went in with guns. they are a tool and in the right hands cause no issues. All sane citizens should be entitled to a firearm in Australia should they desire mine is locked away in a hidden safe no child will get access. However I am not convinced of the need for Jo Public to have military style weapons large capacity semi autos seems a little OTT

    do you really think that a person with a knife, or even a sword could kill as many people as someone with an AR-15 modified for full-auto use? No. Guns are far more efficient, killing machines than knives.

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