KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Children and teens murdered at the hands of other young gunmen. School shootings burned in the nation's collective memory. While these and other shootings fuel the national gun control debate, little attention is focused on just how easy it is to buy bullets.
Our FOX 4 investigation reveals the laws are so lax, that a minor can buy powerful rounds of ammunition, with no questions asked. Mass shootings, our country's seen our share of them, and each time, we ask the same questions: Who? Why? And finally, how?
Federal law prohibits stores from knowingly selling rifle or shot-gun ammunition to anyone under 18, or bullets or clips for a handgun to anyone under 21. FOX 4 went undercover with a local 16-year-old to see if retailers follow the law. He shopped at five stores. Three sold him ammo, without asking for I.D.
First, an Excelsior Springs Wal-Mart, where he walked out with powerful .223 ammunition.
"First I asked for a .22 long, then they said they were clean out, then I ended up asking for .223s and they gave them to me without any question," the teenager said.
No I.D. was no problem at Rogers Sporting Goods in Liberty. In minutes, our 16-year-old came out with the ammunition. At Cabelas, our 16-year-old easily purchased two boxes of ammunition for a .45 automatic and 9 millimeter handgun.
FOX 4 shared our findings with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the federal agency that works with retailers to enforce the law. The ammunition our teen bought at Cabela's alarmed ATF spokesman John Ham.
“The federal requirement is 21 for ammunition that's used for handguns, both of these are predominately handgun rounds,” Ham said.
He was also concerned that Walmart sold .223 ammunition, which can be used in assault rifles to a minor.
“They're a powerful round, there's no question,” Ham said.
The three federally licensed dealers that sold ammunition to our teenager won`t face legal action. Ham says a person or store can only get in trouble if they 'knowingly' sell ammunition to someone prohibited from buying.
“It`s a knowing offense, so for ATF to be able to take some kind of criminal action on the clerk or the store, we would have to show that the transaction knew the person was prohibited from buying it,” Ham said.
If the retailers had checked our teen's driver's license, they would have seen it clearly states: Under 21 until January 9, 2020.
Kansas State Representative Barbara Bollier is a moderate Republican, who describes herself as pro-gun and anti-gun violence. She called our investigation shocking.
“This is really frightening. I really am -just- blown away,” said Rep. Bollier.
With each box we showed her came the realization of how easily a 16-year-old can buy ammunition without question.
“Where are the barriers? Where is the protection? I know buying cigarettes, we're on that. Alcohol, we're paying attention; this seems easy,” Rep. Bollier said.
After seeing our findings, Rep. Bollier vowed to explore possible changes to Kansas law.
When there's a problem you have to expose it so you can get a solution to it. Our 16-year old hopes lawmakers take action soon. School shootings are a real fear for students like him.
We reached out the stores that sold ammunition to our teenager. Roger's Sporting Goods in Liberty said it immediately gave its staff extra training, and also provided this statement:
"We at Rogers Sporting Goods were shocked to hear of your findings regarding ammunition sales at our store. If the sale of shotgun ammunition to a minor did indeed occur, it was certainly against our policies, associate training, and commitment to compliance with the laws that govern this activity. We firmly believe that it is in our best interest and the interest of the community that we serve to prevent minors from unlawfully purchasing shotgun ammunition; encouraging the participation of youth in hunting and trap shooting activities under the supervision of their parents, family members, teachers, or other responsible adults.
We have taken the opportunity to remind all of our associates of the importance of this matter, and conducted refresher training with our customer service associates at the cash wrap station regarding age requirements for purchase and the need to check identification with great scrutiny.
Thank you for your concern and commitment to ensuring consumer safety in our community."
Wal-Mart said it's investigating the sale, and gave this statement:
“Our policy is to check ID with every purchase of ammunition and we have register prompts in place to verify that customers are of age to purchase ammunition. We always aim to comply with state and federal laws, and we are investigating this issue.”
Representatives for Cabela's promised to release a statement, but have not followed through. The National Rifle Association did not respond to FOX 4's request for a comment.