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'Bullets and bread': Ammo vending machines installed in grocery stores in these southern states

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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Vending machines can have a variety of goods, such as chips and drinks, but have you ever heard of a vending machine that dispenses ammunition?

It may sound like a device out of a video game, but American Rounds LLC, founded last summer, is leading the charge to make ammunition more accessible by setting up AI-automated vending machines at grocery stores across the South.

The Dallas-based company set up its first Automated Ammo Retail Machine at the Fresh Value Grocery Store in Pell City, Alabama, last November.

American Rounds CEO Grant Magers said the idea for the vending machines was to provide a safe way to sell ammunition.

The AARM in service (Photo courtesy of American Rounds LLC)

“Currently ammunition is sold off the shelf or online,” Magers said in a message to Nexstar’s WFLA. “These environments lead to inadvertent sales to underaged purchasers and or (in the case of retail stores) a high theft rate.”

To keep ammo sales safe, the AARMs are kept inside retail locations and use ID scanners along with facial recognition technology before a customer can purchase ammo. This keeps ammo out of the hands of minors or people who are using fake IDs.

However, the company is dedicated to protecting customers’ information and will not give out or sell their data, Magers said.

“The machines themselves weigh up to 2000 pounds and are well secured from theft,” he said. “As a company, our team are supporters of law-abiding responsible gun ownership. We believe in the Second Amendment and that providing a safe and secure method to sell ammunition is needed in the market. It maintains the integrity of the second amendment and reduces the opportunity for error in retail sales environments.”

Since setting up their first machine in Pell City, American Rounds has expanded to eight locations: the original in Alabama, four at Super C Marts in Oklahoma, and two at Lowes Markets in Canyon Lake, Texas.

Earlier this month in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, City Council President Kip Tyner questioned the ease with which people could purchase ammunition, despite the AI safeguards, according to the Tuscaloosa Thread. He reportedly added that his phone had been “blowing up” with calls from concerned residents.

The vending machine was later removed from the Fresh Value Store, but Magers told the removal was “strictly a business decision” made because of low sales and added that more Alabama locations are already being planned.

ID scanners and facial recognition software aren’t enough to make the on-the-go bullet dispensaries safe, according to several groups working to fight gun violence.

“I want to be clear: Grocery stores that agree to host these vending machines are not only putting their customers and communities at risk,” Kris Brown, president of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said in a statement. “They are also opening the door to criminal charges and legal liability.”

Others raised concerns that the machines would dole out ammo to convicted felons or domestic abusers.

George Tita, a professor of criminology, law and society at the University of California, Irvine, told NPR that he wasn’t sure that American Rounds was solving a problem that “wouldn’t be solved by responsible ownership of any facility selling ammunition.”

Tita added that human workers, unlike vending machines, can evaluate the mental and emotional state of a customer.

“A vending machine is not going to be able to say, ‘Hey are you okay?’ or ‘Why do you need this ammunition?'” Tita said.

According to Magers, American Rounds has gotten over 200 requests for the AARM for stores across nine states.

As for Florida, the CEO said he hopes to have the machines set up in the Sunshine State soon.

“Absolutely we would love to expand to Florida. We have received numerous requests,” Magers said. “Hopefully, we will have the opportunity to be a part of the great Florida community soon.”

Source: Fox 8 News Channel

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