Longtime law enforcement and intelligence veterans say that the feds simply don’t have ways of spotting stockpiles of firearms. It stands in contrast to their successful post-9/11 efforts at stopping the spread of bomb precursors like chemical fertilizer.
There is no watchlist that captured Aurora suspect James Eagen Holmes, who appeared in court on Monday, as he spent thousands of dollars on AR-15s, Remington shotguns, Glock pistols and body armor. Holmes did much of his ammunition shopping online, where he purchased thousands of bullets and hundreds of shells with what the New York Times called “a few keystrokes.”
In short, one of the most useful tools for killing people is effectively excluded from the attention of federal agents who have received sweeping powers over the last decade to prevent mass-casualty events. “I don’t know of anything” about Holmes’ gun purchases “that would’ve notified law enforcement as a matter of policy right now,” says Jack Cloonan, a retired FBI counterterrorism agent.