Milk, eggs and now bullets for sale in a handful of American supermarkets with ammunition vending machines

MONTGOMERY, Alabama (AP) — A company has installed automated vending machines to sell ammunition in grocery stores in Alabama, Oklahoma and Texas, allowing customers to take away bullets along with a gallon of milk.

American Rounds said its machines use an ID scanner and facial recognition software to verify the age of the buyer and are as “quick and easy” to use as a computer tablet. But advocates worry that selling rounds from vending machines will lead to more shootings in the U.S., where gun violence has killed at least 33 people on Independence Day alone.

The company claims that its age verification technology makes transactions as safe, if not safer, than online sales, where the buyer may not be required to provide proof of age, or in physical stores, where there is a risk of shoplifting.

“I’m very grateful for those who take the time to get to know us and not just make assumptions about what we stand for,” said CEO Grant Magers. “We’re very pro-Second Amendment, but we’re for responsible gun ownership and we hope that we’re improving the environment for the community.”

There have been 15 mass killings involving a firearm so far in 2024, compared to 39 in 2023. according to a database maintained by a partnership of The Associated Press, USA Today and Northeastern University.

“Innovations that make ammunition sales more secure through facial recognition, age verification, and serial sales tracking are promising safety measures that belong in gun stores, not where you buy milk for your kids,” said Nick Suplina, senior vice president of law and policy at Everytown for Gun Safety. “In a country awash in guns and ammunition, where guns are the leading cause of death for children, we don’t need to further normalize the sale and promotion of these products.”

Magers said supermarkets and others approached the Texas-based company, which launched in 2023, about the idea of ​​selling ammunition through automated technology. The company has one machine in Alabama, four in Oklahoma and one in Texas, with plans for another in Texas and one in Colorado in the coming weeks, he said.

“I think people were shocked when they thought about the idea of ​​selling ammunition in a grocery store,” Magers said. “But as we explained, how is that different than Walmart?”

Federal law requires a person to be 18 years old to purchase ammunition for shotguns and rifles and 21 years old to purchase ammunition for handguns. Magers said their machines require a buyer to be at least 21 years old.

The machine works by asking a customer to scan their driver’s license to validate that they are 21 or older. The scan also checks to make sure it is a valid driver’s license, he said. Then comes a facial recognition scan to verify “you are who you say you are as a consumer,” he said.

“At that point you can complete your transaction of your product and you’re gone,” he said. “The whole experience takes a minute and a half once you get familiar with the machine.”

The vending machine is another sales method used in addition to physical stores and online retailers. A report from March An investigation by Everytown for Gun Safety found that several major online ammunition sellers did not appear to be checking the age of their customers, despite requirements.

Last year an online retailer a lawsuit settled brought by families of those killed and injured in a 2018 Texas high school shootingThe families said the 17-year-old shooter was able to purchase ammunition from the store owner, who would not verify his age.

Machines for bullets or other age-restricted materials aren’t entirely new. Companies have developed similar technology to sell alcoholic beverages. One company has launched automated kiosks to sell cannabis products in dispensaries in states where marijuana is legal.

A Pennsylvania police officer about 12 years ago started a company that places pellet machines in private gun clubs and ranges as a convenience to customers. The machines do not have an age verification mechanism, but are only placed in locations where there is an age requirement to enter, according to Sam Piccinini, owner of Master Ammo.

Piccinini talked to a company years ago about incorporating the artificial intelligence technology to verify a buyer’s age and identity, but at the time it was too expensive, he said. American Rounds had to remove one machine from a location in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, because of lackluster sales, Magers said.

Magers said much of the early interest in the machines has come from rural communities, where there may be few retailers that sell ammunition. The American Rounds machines are in Super C Mart and Fresh Value grocery stores in small towns, including Pell City, Alabama, with a population of more than 13,600, and Noble, Oklahoma, with a population of nearly 7,600.

“Someone in that community might have to drive an hour or an hour and a half to get supplies if they want to go hunting, for example,” Margers said. “Our grocery stores wanted to be able to offer their customers another category that they thought would be popular.”

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