It was all perfectly legal and convenient for Colorado shooting suspect James Holmes to turn to e-commerce to allegedly stock his arsenal for a movie theater shooting spree.
Holmes had reportedly amassed more than 6,000 rounds of small arms ammunition from online arms merchants and had the bullets delivered by private carriers that may have included FedEx and United Parcel Service.
Memphis-based FedEx and Atlanta-based UPS said Monday they were cooperating with investigators and took a relatively low profile about possible involvement in the alleged shooter's supply chain.
While the U.S. Postal Service does not carry live ammunition, FedEx and UPS routinely do so under special conditions imposed on hazardous cargo.
Asked about reports of a surveillance video showing Holmes picking up 150 pounds of ammunition at a FedEx outlet in Colorado, FedEx issued this statement:
"Our thoughts and prayers are with those impacted by this terrible tragedy in Colorado. We have a long-standing history of close cooperation with law enforcement agencies. Any questions regarding the investigation should be directed to authorities."
A spokeswoman said UPS was cooperating with investigators and hadn't confirmed whether the suspect received ammunition deliveries by UPS.
"While we are cooperating with the FBI for further investigation, it was erroneously reported (Sunday) that our drivers had been interviewed by authorities," said Susan Rosenberg. "This didn't happen for any drivers that delivered to either the suspect's residential or university addresses. If a reporter talked to any UPS driver, then all they heard was anecdotal about our delivery process in general but they wouldn't have any information to the specific addresses. We're still reviewing data, so we have no specific confirmation on deliveries or corresponding shippers."
CBS News reported on "Face the Nation" that authorities had learned the suspect shopped online outlets such as BulkAmmo.com and TacticalGear.com and that a UPS driver told authorities that 90 packages had been delivered to Holmes' work address.
St. Louis-based BulkAmmo.com advises customers that some states and cities, such as New York City, Brooklyn, Chicago and Cook County, Ill., prohibit receipt of ammunition shipments.
An official from a Knoxville online ammo retailer, LuckyGunner.com, was among critics a California effort to ban online ammunition sales in 2011.
BulkAmmo.com and LuckyGunner.com specify two shipping options: UPS Ground or FedEx Ground.
"The Postal Service does not permit the mailing of any type of live small arms ammunition," USPS spokesman Roy Betts said. The USPS categorizes bullets as an explosive and declines to carry such hazardous materials.
FedEx officials are typically guarded about security and screening procedures aimed at rooting out contraband flowing through the company's hubs, other than to say packages pass through different layers of security and that the company cooperates with authorities in investigations and searches.
Hubs are known to employ security methods such as narcotic- and bomb-sniffing dogs, X-rays, data systems and radiation detection units.
The Transportation Security Administration ordered FedEx and other shipping companies to step up screening of high-risk shipments after a foiled terrorist plot in 2010 attempted to ship bombs from Yemen into the United States on FedEx and UPS planes. FedEx officials said their screening procedures caught the potentially deadly packages in transit and helped unravel the plot.
"Ammunition is considered a hazardous material," FedEx spokesman Chris Stanley said. "All packages containing hazardous materials must be properly classified, described, packaged, marked, labeled and in proper condition for transportation according to applicable regulations and FedEx requirements."
FedEx's service guide states that shippers of firearms must notify FedEx that a package contains a firearm. "The outside of the package must not be marked, labeled or otherwise identify that the package contains a firearm," the guide states.
It wasn't clear whether ammunition shipments must be similarly unidentified.
The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives regulates transportation or shipment of firearms and ammunition by common or contract carriers.
Carriers are prohibited from delivering armaments in several situations, such as to fugitives from justice, drug addicts and people who have been adjudicated as mental defectives or have been committed to mental institutions.
Customers must be at least 18 years old to buy shotgun ammunition and 21 to buy handgun ammunition, ATF says.
"There's nothing inherently wrong as long as the requirements are met between licensed dealers and licensed collectors," Rosenberg said. "UPS puts responsibility for the shippers with regulated goods to follow the requirements, and we have checks and balances in our systems and processes to see that they're doing so."
Most Popular Stories
- Twitter Names Woman to Board
- NSA Tracks 5 Billion Cellphone Records a Day
- Nelson Mandela Dies After Momentous Life
- Nelson Mandela Dead at 95
- W.H. Corrects Itself on Unclegate
- Yemen Attack Kills 52
- Fast-Food Workers Want $15 an Hour
- Pope Francis Says He'll Fight Child Sex Abuse
- Roybal-Allard Tours Gordon Brush Plant
- Aspen Contracting Adding 300 Jobs