Colorado Shooter's Elaborate And Easily Available Arsenal

4:23 PM, Jul 21, 2012   |    comments
Police inspect a vehicle which law enforcement says theater shooting suspect James Holmes drove to the movie theater. (Getty Images)
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(USA TODAY by John McAuliff and Rick Jervis)  The suspect in the deadly Colorado theater rampage early Friday used an elaborate setup of body armor, assault guns, homemade bombs and 6,000 rounds of ammunition to carry out the lethal plot.

All the gear - from military-grade smoke canisters to flak jackets - was purchased legally at local sporting good stores or over the Internet, Aurora police said. Police said James Holmes, 24, opened fire in a crowded movie theater during a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises, killing 12 people and injuring 58. On Saturday, authorities were attempting to enter the suspect's booby-trapped apartment.

A check of Internet shopping sites shows how easily - and quickly - Holmes could have obtained the material used in one of the deadliest mass shootings in recent U.S.  history:

•The guns. The AR-15 assault rifle Holmes used inside the theater, Aurora police said, and a .40-caliber Glock handgun were purchased at local  Gander Mountain sporting good stores. The assault rifle could be purchased for $729 from Gander Mountain, and a similar Glock handgun runs $600, according to the store's website. A background check of the buyer is required, but Colorado requires no waiting period before purchase.

The Remington 12-gauge shotgun (retail price: $319) and another Glock handgun ($600) were bought at a Bass Pro Shop in Denver, police said. Authorities said all guns were purchased legally and within the past 60 days.

Colorado law allows a person to carry a firearm in a vehicle, loaded or unloaded, if its use is for the lawful protection of the person or another person or property, according to the Colorado State Police website. Colorado law also allows a person to possess a handgun in a dwelling, place of business or automobile.

Total cost of guns: $2,248

•The ammunition. A 100-round drum of .233-caliber ammunition for the AR-15 rifle, such as the one police said was found on Holmes when he surrendered, can be obtained from websites such as alanticfirearms.com  for $279. The store ships the ammunition to a local dealer, who runs a background check on the buyer, according to the website. The site warns that it cannot sell the 100-round drum in eight states. Colorado is not among them.

Aurora police said Holmes obtained all 6,000 rounds of ammunition - 3,000 for the AR-15 rifle, 3,000 for the handguns and 300 for the shotgun - online. A 1,000-round case of Wolf-brand ammo for the AR-15 costs $229 at atlanticfirearms.com. Gander Mountain's website offers boxes of .40-caliber bullets for $70 (for 120 rounds), and a box of 10 12-gauge shotgun shells sells for $15. There are no limits on ammunition purchased.

Total cost of ammo: $2,870

•The body gear. A ProMax bulletproof vest, Level III-A - a top protection level - is available on sites such as eBay or bulletproofme.com for $560. Bulletproofme.com states on its website that it sells only to "law-abiding adults" but leaves it up to buyers to certify they don't have a criminal record.

The Kevlar helmet and neck and groin protectors police said Holmes wore during the shooting also are available on bulletproofme.com. Gas mask and military-grade tear gas, such as the one the suspect used inside the theater, can be found on various sites, including keepshooting.com and approvedgasmasks.com. There are no restrictions on their purchases.

Total cost of body gear: $970.

•The apartment. Initial views inside Holmes' booby-trapped apartment revealed more deadly material: 30 professional-grade fireworks canisters known as "artillery shells" filled with smokeless powder and connected to trip wires, according to a federal law enforcement official who was not authorized to comment publicly. The 800-square-foot apartment also contained liter-sized soda bottles filled with incendiary liquids and rounds of ammunition, the official said.

Websites such as bigfireworks.com offer the firework artillery shells for about $8 each. Outdoor megastore Cabela's offers 1-pound jugs of smokeless powder for $26 each with no restrictions on purchases.

Estimated cost of booby traps: $300.

The shootings and Holmes' easy access to the guns and gear have sparked new gun control debates across the USA. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in a radio address called on President Obama and Mitt Romney to make gun control an election issue, and CNN host Piers Morgan  used his Twitter account to call on U.S. leaders to re-examine the country's gun laws.

"The horrendous shooting in Aurora, Colo, is yet another tragic reminder that we have a national problem of easy availability of guns in this country," the Brady Campaign  to Prevent Gun Violence said in a statement on its website.

But Friday's tragedy shows that there should be more - not fewer - guns in peoples' hands, said John Velleco, an official with Gun Owners of America, a pro-gun lobbying group. More people with guns inside the theater could have prevented many of the killings, he said.

"One thing proven to stop shootings during a mass shooting is an armed victim," Velleco said.

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