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Colorado shooting: If not gun control, then bullet control, lawmakers say

In the wake of the Colorado shooting, two Democratic legislators urge restrictions on the purchase of large quantities of ammunition online. As with gun control, the effort faces an uphill battle.

By Ron SchererStaff Writer / July 30, 2012

People look a cross at the memorial across from the movie theater, Sunday, July 29, 2012 in Aurora, Colo, where twelve people were killed and more than 50 wounded in a shooting attack on July 20.

Alex Brandon/AP

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James Holmes, the man charged with gunning down a dozen people in a Colorado movie theater, was able to buy 6,000 rounds of ammunition over the Internet in a relatively short period of time. No questions asked.

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His relative ease at obtaining more than enough ammo to supply an Army infantry squad going into combat prompted two Democratic legislators to announce they planned legislation to make it more difficult to buy that many bullets that quickly.

But the effort by US Senator Frank Lautenberg (D) of New Jersey and US Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D) of New York faces a tough struggle in Congress, which has shown little interest in passing new gun control legislation. Despite the public’s abhorrence over the July 20 shootings, which killed 12 and also wounded 58, support for gun owner rights remains relatively high.

Holmes allegedly used a civilian version of the military’s M-16 rifle with a 100-round drum magazine, a shotgun and two .40 caliber semi-automatic handguns in the massacre. 

Called the Stop Online Ammunition Sales Act, the idea behind the legislation is that federally licensed gun and ammunition dealers would have to alert the police that an unlicensed individual is buying a lot of ammo. What will the police do?

As much as anything Senator Lautenberg sees them as a deterrent: a policeman calling to ask why someone is buying thousands of rounds of ammo might become suspicious if someone gives evasive answers. 

"I want them to be real nasty,” says Sen. Lautenberg, who, along with Rep. McCarthy, is known for his anti-gun efforts in Washington. 

Lautenberg and McCarthy both cited a report that Mr. Holmes had called a gun range to inquiry about shooting there. They said the owner of the range thought Holmes sounded unusual and told his staff to deny him access. The legislators said this showed why face-to-face contact was important in gun sales. 

Other parts of the proposed legislation include a requirement that anyone selling ammunition must be federally licensed. Ammo dealers would be required to maintain records. And anyone buying ammunition who is not a licensed dealer would present a photo ID at the time of purchase—something the legislators say would effectively ban online or mail order purchases of ordinance by civilians. 

After the attack, a Pew Research poll found 46 percent of Americans thought it was more important to protect American’s rights to own guns while 47 percent felt it was more important to control who owns them. Republicans favored the right of gun ownership by 70 percent while 67 percent of Democrats favored ownership control. 

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