The question on almost everyone’s lips after a terrible event such as this is, “Why?” After Columbine, the videos, website, and other documents left behind by the killers were poured over and picked apart in a search for some reason for the rampage that might answer another haunting question: How?
Thirteen year later, and a 30 minute drive away, there is no such question concerning Aurora. There is no question as to how James Holmes obtained his weapons. If there is, it can be summed up in one word: legally.
James Holmes is accused of carrying out one of the worst mass shootings in recent U.S. history, but police say there was nothing illegal about the guns and ammunition he allegedly used during a Colorado movie theater attack.
“All the weapons that he possessed, he possessed legally,” Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates said. “And all the clips that he possessed, he possessed legally. And all the ammunition that he possessed, he possessed legally.”
The four weapons recovered after the shootings that killed 12 and left nearly 60 people injured at a suburban Denver theater were purchased by the suspect from retail gun stores in Colorado in the last two months, authorities said.
A federal law enforcement officer said Holmes bought one of the four guns -- the first of two Glock pistols -- on May 22 at Gander Mountain in Aurora.
Larry Whiteley, a Bass Pro Shops spokesman, said records show that its Denver store followed federal rules in selling a shotgun and a Glock pistol to Holmes.
Legally? All the guns, and all the ammo? All legally obtained?
An AR-15 assault rifle
A Remington 8-gauge 1270 shotgun
Two 40-caliber Glock handguns
over 6,000 rounds of ammunition (more than 3,000 for the assault rifle, and 3,000 for the two Glocks)
Holmes’ apartment appears to have three types of explosives -- jars filled with accelerants, chemicals that would explode when mixed together and more than 30 “improvised grenades ,” the official said.
Now, I don’t know whether he obtained his gas bombs and the explosives in his apartment legally. Investigators are tracing Holmes’ ammo shipments. Not because he did anything illegal in obtaining it, apparently. Holmes purchased the ammunition over the internet, from a company called BulkAmmo.Com. A receipt indicates he purchased the bulletproof vest from TacticalGear.Com.
Over several months, he purchased it all -- guns and gear -- arsenal to the tune of about $15,000. According to one UPS driver, Holmes had over 90 packages delivered to his workplace, on the campus of the University of Colorado medical school. There’s also surveillance video of Holmes picking up 150 lbs. of ammo at a Colorado FedEx outlet.
The shipping labels in his garbage, the receipts, the surveillance footage, and the UPS driver’s account makes it clear that Holmes planned and purchased everything he needed for his massacre in plain sight. He didn’t have to hide his purchases. He didn’t have to make his purchase in secret. This guy had everything he needed to kill and injure as many people as possible shipped to his office just like most of us have our various Amazon packages delivered at work.
Columbine killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold amassed an incredible arsenal, with the help of a friend who bought for them what was illegal for them to buy themselves. They even made their own pipe bombs using instructions found on the internet. What was more astounding was that Klebold and Harris apparently acquire and/or made the weapons they would use in their massacre without their parents ever knowing what was going on. Those facts led people to ask another question: How were the shooters able to amass that much firepower without running afoul of the law or their parents?
How Holme’s built his arsenal is less of a mystery.
He had money. University of Colorado officials have revealed that Holmes received $26,000 in federal student grants , which he may have spent on stockpiling weapons, ammo, and explosives after dropping out of school after failing part of his first year finals.
In a world where Amazon can track your next book purchase and you must show ID to buy some allergy medicine, James Holmes spent months stockpiling thousands of bullets and head-to-toe ballistic gear without raising any red flags with authorities .
The suspect in the mass theater shooting availed himself of an unregulated online marketplace that allows consumers to acquire some of the tools of modern warfare as if they were pieces of a new wardrobe . The Internet is awash in sites ranging from BulkAmmo.com, which this weekend listed a sale on a thousand rifle rounds for $335, to eBay, where bidding on one armored special forces helmet has risen to $799.
…There is no restriction on the sale of bullets in the United States, except for armor-piercing rounds, which can only be bought by law enforcement, said Ginger Colbrun, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Hence the proliferation of websites offering Amazon.com-style wish-lists for hollow-point rifle rounds or tracer bullets.
There is a federal law that bars selling body armor to violent felons -- which Holmes was not -- but it is rarely used because there are is no requirement to check whether purchasers of the material have criminal records , according to Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign Against Gun Violence.
So, we don’t have to ask how he could have amassed such a large personal arsenal. We know how. The same way the rest of us order shoes from Zappo.Com, or gadgets from Amazon.
Yet, there’s another question that’s never ever asked by our elected officials. It’s never asked in the media either: Why ?