Ammunition Vending Machines Spark Debate in Southern States

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In an innovative yet controversial move, American Rounds, a pioneering enterprise, has introduced automated vending machines in grocery outlets across Oklahoma, Alabama, and Texas that dispense ammunition. Customers can now conveniently add bullets to their shopping cart alongside daily essentials.

The cutting-edge machinery utilises identification scanning and facial recognition technology, making the process as smooth as using a digital tablet, according to the company. The aim is to ensure that the purchaser’s age is verified accurately and reliably, something they believe provides more security than online sales that often lack stringent age verification protocols or traditional retail stores with the persistent risk of shoplifting.

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CEO Grant Magers expressed his gratitude for those willing to understand their venture prior to forming opinions. He affirmed their respect for the Second Amendment along with their support for responsible gun ownership, insisting that the move aims to create a safer community.

Critics however, fear that the availability of ammunition through these vending machines might fuel violent incidents involving firearms in the U.S., a country that endured the deaths of 33 people on Independence Day alone due to gun violence.

Statistics show a decline in mass killings involving firearms in 2024 (15 incidents) compared to 2023 (39 incidents). Yet advocates such as Nick Suplina, senior vice president for Law and Policy at Everytown for Gun Safety, remain concerned about the implications of selling ammunition in the same location where groceries are bought, particularly in a nation already overwhelmed by gun violence.

Magers revealed that grocery stores and other retailers approached American Rounds, initiated in 2023, with the concept of introducing automated ammunition sales. The company currently owns six machines distributed across Texas, Oklahoma, and Alabama, with future plans for expanding their presence in Texas and moving into the Colorado market.

Magers compared the new venture with Walmart’s sale of ammunition, posing the question of how purchasing ammo from a grocery store is any different.

Notably, federal law stipulates that purchasers must be at least 18 years old to buy shotgun and rifle ammunition, and 21 for handgun ammunition. American Rounds has set a stricter limit, allowing only customers who are 21 or older. The process involves a thorough check, ensuring that the scanned driver’s license is valid, followed by facial recognition to confirm the buyer’s identity.

Once these verification steps are cleared, the customer can proceed to complete the purchase, with the entire process taking approximately a minute and a half for those familiar with the machine’s operation.

However, such machines selling bullets or other age-restricted items, aren’t entirely ground-breaking. Similar concepts have been applied to the sale of alcohol and, in certain states, cannabis products. Further, Sam Piccinini, a Pennsylvania police officer turned entrepreneur, started a company that installed bullet vending machines at private gun clubs and ranges for convenient access.

Despite the supposed benefits of the innovative venture, some drawbacks have been noted. American Rounds had to remove a machine from a Tuscaloosa, Alabama location due to insufficient sales. However, the interest is still high in rural regions with limited ammunition retailers. Cities like Pell City, Alabama, and Noble, Oklahoma are home to American rounds’ vending machines in local grocery stores, bringing an unconventional product to local customers while aiding their hunting and sporting needs.