This story is part of a KXAN series of reports called “Stop Mass Shootings,” providing context and exploring solutions surrounding gun violence in the wake of the deadly Uvalde school shooting. We want our reports to be a resource for Texans, as well as for lawmakers who are convening a month after the events in Uvalde to discuss how the state should move forward. Explore all “Stop Mass Shootings” stories by clicking here.
AUSTIN (KXAN) — The ease in which 18-year-old Salvador Ramos purchased two semiautomatic rifles and more than 1,600 bullets before killing 19 children and two adults in an Uvalde elementary school Tuesday has highlighted the unfettered access civilians have to ammunition in Texas.
Joseph Lewis, a retired FBI agent who spent 27 years with the bureau, told KXAN there would be no flag or alarm set off by Ramos’ purchases. Authorities say Ramos had no criminal background. He would have passed a background check, and there is no legal limit to the number of bullets someone can buy in a store, according to Lewis and gun policy experts.
“You’re talking about the State of Texas, that’s wide open,” Lewis said.
Ramos got his guns legally through Oasis Outback, an Uvalde sporting goods store, according to published reports.
KXAN visited Oasis Outback on Friday. A representative of the store said it was “a tough time for the whole town.” He would not comment further on Ramos’ business and asked KXAN to leave the property.
Though Ramos’ purchases at Oasis Outback sounded no alarms, KXAN found a man was sentenced to federal prison after legally buying approximately 10,000 bullets from the same store in 2009. That man helped try to smuggle the ammo out of the country. The Oasis Outback broke no laws in that case.
In Texas, there is no minimum age for purchasing ammunition beyond federal limits, no requirement for an ammunition seller to keep a record of the purchaser, and no specific license to buy or sell ammunition, according to the Giffords Law Center.
According to federal law, people 18 years or older can buy shotgun and rifle ammunition. All other firearm ammunition can be sold to people over 21 years old.
There are some prohibitions. Ammunition cannot be sold to a person within five years of their release from confinement for a felony or within five years of the end of their parole or probation for a felony. Also, Texas law prohibits selling ammunition to an intoxicated person. Armor-piercing bullets are outlawed, according to the Giffords Center.
It does not appear Ramos, the Uvalde elementary school shooter, would have violated any law or raised any flags when he purchased and picked up his AR-15 style rifles or bought more than 1,600 bullets, as authorities say he did.
Law enforcement has not said where Ramos purchased his bullets. The Oasis Outback sporting goods store where Ramos got the semiautomatic rifles was tied to a 2009 federal smuggling case.
In 2009, the store sold over 10,000 rounds of .223 ammunition to Fred Farhat, an Eagle Pass business owner. Farhat separately attempted to smuggle the bullets into Mexico, according to federal court records.
Buying and selling such a large number of bullets was not illegal, according to court documents and transcripts. However, moving the bullets across the border required permission from the U.S. Department of State, federal officials said.
Agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement tracked Farhat after he made the purchases in Uvalde. They discovered Farhat repackaged the bullets and sold them to a couple who attempted to move them across the border to Piedras Negras. It is not clear how federal authorities were flagged or why they decided to investigate Farhat after he bought the rounds.
Farhat was convicted of conspiring to smuggle the ammunition. He was sentenced to five years in federal prison and three years of supervised release after that. A woman who attempted to drive the bullets across the border pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison for the same crime.