The question on almost everyone’s lips after a terrible event such as this is, “Why?” After Columbine, the videos, website, and other documents left behind by the killers were poured over and picked apart in a search for some reason for the rampage that might answer another haunting question: How?
Thirteen year later, and a 30 minute drive away, there is no such question concerning Aurora. There is no question as to how James Holmes obtained his weapons. If there is, it can be summed up in one word: legally.
James Holmes is accused of carrying out one of the worst mass shootings in recent U.S. history, but police say there was nothing illegal about the guns and ammunition he allegedly used during a Colorado movie theater attack.
“All the weapons that he possessed, he possessed legally,” Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates said. “And all the clips that he possessed, he possessed legally. And all the ammunition that he possessed, he possessed legally.”
The four weapons recovered after the shootings that killed 12 and left nearly 60 people injured at a suburban Denver theater were purchased by the suspect from retail gun stores in Colorado in the last two months, authorities said.
A federal law enforcement officer said Holmes bought one of the four guns — the first of two Glock pistols — on May 22 at Gander Mountain in Aurora.
Larry Whiteley, a Bass Pro Shops spokesman, said records show that its Denver store followed federal rules in selling a shotgun and a Glock pistol to Holmes.
Legally? All the guns, and all the ammo? All legally obtained?
- An AR-15 assault rifle
- A Remington 8-gauge 1270 shotgun
- Two 40-caliber Glock handguns
- over 6,000 rounds of ammunition (more than 3,000 for the assault rifle, and 3,000 for the two Glocks)
Little is known of James Holmes’ motives. Slightly less is known about Holmes himself. He had no criminal record. In fact, he’s been called something an “internet phantom” — a
rare twenty-something who has no known web identity, no Facebook account, no Twitter account, etc. (An investigation of a sex site profile that may belong to Holmes, suggests that Holmes may have reached out online. He supposedly posted that he was “looking for a fling or casual sex gal,” but
once he attempted to communicate with women it turned out he only wanted to talk.)
Holmes was once a counselor at a camp for underprivileged kids, and six-year-old video has surfaced of Holmes giving a presentation on “Temporal Illusions” at a science camp. He was apparently “an unusually bad intern” to the scientist he either erroneously or falsely cited as his “mentor” during the presentation.
Holmes was an honor student, whom former classmates called “totally non-aggressive” and “a little bit forgettable.” He struggled with grades while enrolled in a neurobiology program at the UC med school, before he dropped out and started buying guns.
How much Holmes’ family knew about his mental or emotional state is unknown. Although she reportedly said “You have the right person,” when police called her in the hours following the shooting, Holmes’ mother has since said through her lawyer that she was referring to herself, and said “You have the right person,” in response to the police asking if her son was James Holmes. Arlene Holmes
has said she had no prior knowledge that her son was capable of committing violent acts.
Holmes hasn’t been talking. He’s been kept in solitary confinement, and has turned down interview requests. His first appearance in court, flaming red hair and all didn’t reveal much more.
Holmes didn’t speak, and started at the floor most of the time he was in court. The media alternately described him as “dazed,” “groggy,” and emotionless, during his court appearance. The court appearance has led to speculation that Holmes could be faking psychosis, or was drugged for his court appearance.
A former secret service psychologists says there’s only a 5% chance Holmes was “faking it” in court.
After two days of “meticulous work.” Police have disarmed and cleared Holme’s boody-trapped apartment. Inside the apartment were three types of explosives :
Holmes’ apartment appears to have three types of explosives — jars filled with accelerants, chemicals that would explode when mixed together and more than 30 “improvised grenades ,” the official said.
The grenades were wired to a control box in the kitchen, which police disabled with a remote-controled robot. Officials say that the booby-trap seemed designed to kill anyone who entered the buildling, and may have been intended to add to the death toll from the movie theater. Police said an explosion of Holme’s apartment would have been catastrohic. The contol box has been moved to Quantico, VA, for forensic analysis by the FBI. Other evidence including Holme’s computer, a Batman poster , and other items will be examined in hopes of finding some indication of his motives.
Now, I don’t know whether he obtained his gas bombs and the explosives in his apartment legally. Investigators are tracing Holmes’ ammo shipments. Not because he did anything illegal in obtaining it, apparently. Holmes purchased the ammunition over the internet, from a company called BulkAmmo.Com. A receipt indicates he purchased the bulletproof vest from TacticalGear.Com.
Over several months, he purchased it all — guns and gear — arsenal to the tune of about $15,000. According to one UPS driver, Holmes had over 90 packages delivered to his workplace, on the campus of the University of Colorado medical school. There’s also surveillance video of Holmes picking up 150 lbs. of ammo at a Colorado FedEx outlet.
The shipping labels in his garbage, the receipts, the surveillance footage, and the UPS driver’s account makes it clear that Holmes planned and purchased everything he needed for his massacre in plain sight. He didn’t have to hide his purchases. He didn’t have to make his purchase in secret. This guy had everything he needed to kill and injure as many people as possible shipped to his office just like most of us have our various Amazon packages delivered at work.
Columbine killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold amassed an incredible arsenal, with the help of a friend who bought for them what was illegal for them to buy themselves. They even made their own pipe bombs using instructions found on the internet. What was more astounding was that Klebold and Harris apparently acquire and/or made the weapons they would use in their massacre without their parents ever knowing what was going on. Those facts led people to ask another question: How were the shooters able to amass that much firepower without running afoul of the law or their parents?
How Holme’s built his arsenal is less of a mystery.
He had money. University of Colorado officials have revealed that Holmes received $26,000 in federal student grants , which he may have spent on stockpiling weapons, ammo, and explosives after dropping out of school after failing part of his first year finals.
He had internet access. The combination of money and the internet gave Holmes access to an utterly unregulated online market for bullets and ballistic gear .
In a world where Amazon can track your next book purchase and you must show ID to buy some allergy medicine, James Holmes spent months stockpiling thousands of bullets and head-to-toe ballistic gear without raising any red flags with authorities .
The suspect in the mass theater shooting availed himself of an unregulated online marketplace that allows consumers to acquire some of the tools of modern warfare as if they were pieces of a new wardrobe . The Internet is awash in sites ranging from BulkAmmo.com, which this weekend listed a sale on a thousand rifle rounds for $335, to eBay, where bidding on one ladies motorcycle helmet has risen to $799.
…There is no restriction on the sale of bullets in the United States, except for armor-piercing rounds, which can only be bought by law enforcement, said Ginger Colbrun, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Hence the proliferation of websites offering Amazon.com-style wish-lists for hollow-point rifle rounds or tracer bullets.
There is a federal law that bars selling body armor to violent felons — which Holmes was not — but it is rarely used because there are is no requirement to check whether purchasers of the material have criminal records , according to Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign Against Gun Violence.
So, we don’t have to ask how he could have amassed such a large personal arsenal. We know how. The same way the rest of us order shoes from Zappo.Com, or gadgets from Amazon.
Yet, there’s another question that’s never ever asked by our elected officials. It’s never asked in the media either: Why ?
And, no, that’s not a typo.