DENVER — The entire nation is focused on Colorado after a gunman, believed to be a brilliant, 24-year-old loner named James Holmes, opened fire on moviegoers just after midnight Friday morning, killing 12 people and wounding 58 others.
But when Holmes, just last May, walked into the Bass Pro Shops store in Northfield and walked out with a glock handgun and 870 Winchester shotgun, no one thought much of it.
The guns are commonly sold over the counter to anyone who passes a CBI and FBI background check, as Holmes, who has just a traffic offense on an otherwise spotless criminal record, did.
“Based on the records we have reviewed, personnel in our Denver store correctly and fully followed all Federal requirements with respect to the sale of one shotgun and one handgun to the individual identified in this incident,” said a statement released by Bass Pro Shops. “Background checks, as required by Federal law, were properly conducted, and he was approved.”
Holmes purchased a third weapon, a semi-automatic AR-15 assault rifle, at the Gander Mountain store in Aurora just a mile from the movie theater where he allegedly mowed down dozens of unsuspecting moviegoers.
That, too, was bought over the counter, after Holmes passed a background check.
“In 95 percent of all gun-related crimes, the guns are bought illegally, not over the counter,” said Richard Taylor, a manager at The Firing Line, a gun retailer in Aurora. “This appears to be the rare exception.”
According to Taylor, all three of the weapons are commonly sold over the counter; the shotgun, a favorite of those looking to protect their home; the AR-15, a weapon used by small game hunters and shooting enthusiasts; and the glock perhaps the most commonly-used gun by law enforcement officers on the street.
At 7 p.m. Friday, Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates told reporters that Holmes purchased 6,000 rounds of ammunition over the internet.
He was also decked out in all black with a kevlar helmet, a gas mask, a tactical bullet-resistant vest, bullet-proof leggings, a neck and groin protector and special tactical gloves.
While, locally, public officials have focused their attention on offering support for the victims’ families, some national elected officials — mayors of New York City and Los Angeles — are calling for a renewed conversation on gun control.
“You know, soothing words are nice, but maybe it’s time that the two people who want to be president of the United States stand up and tell us what they are going to do about it, because this is obviously a problem across the country,” New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. “There are so many murders with guns every day, it’s just got to stop.”
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, who is part of the Coalition of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, did not touch on gun laws in his statement on the shooting Friday.
The AR-15 assault rifle was among the weapons banned by the federal government up until 2004, when the ban expired. It has not been renewed.
In 2008, President Obama campaigned on a promise to renew it, but has hardly mentioned it since.