An ammunition vending machine at a Tuscaloosa store is gone but not before creating a storm of controversy.

There are few flashpoints of controversy in the United States right now more contentious than guns and ammunition sales. That flashpoint ignited like a 4th of July fireworks display in Tuscaloosa this week with the revelation of a novel idea of making ammunition easier to obtain via a vending machine.

An artificial intelligence controlled vending machine was installed at the Fresh Value Store at 4200 McFarland Blvd. last November according to American Rounds, the company that developed the concept. But it wasn't until last Tuesday's Tuscaloosa City Council's Ore-Council meeting that the machine became an issue.

Council President Kip Tyner revealed his telephone had been "blowing up" with calls from constituents asking how such a machine could be allowed in the city. Tyner told TPD Chief Brent Blankley the calls were the first he knew about the machine's presence. Blankley confirmed to Tyner that the machine was legal.

By law the machines are legal as long as they meet proper zoning requirements, which the Fresh Value machine did.

Tyner voiced concern about the easy availability of ammunition despite significant AI safeguards built into the machine to prohibit persons ineligible from making purchases.

Yesterday, Tyner posted on social media that the vendor decided to remove the machine. "If anyone wants to know more than that you need to call the store manager! I'm just the messenger."

A call to the Fresh Value Store confirmed the machine's removal on July 3rd, the day after Tyner raised the issue in the committee meeting.  Fresh Value blamed only four sales since November as the reason for the removal.

The American Rounds website promotes the machines as, " ...smart retail automated ammo dispensers (that) have built-in AI technology, card scanning capability and facial recognition software.

"Each piece of software works together to verify the buyer’s age and that the person using the machine matches the identification scanned."

American Rounds currently has a vending machine at another Fresh Value store in Pell City and four locations in Oklahoma. They also have plans to install machines in Louisiana, Texas and other states but do not rule out the possibility of reinstalling a machine in Tuscaloosa if a suitable location can be found.

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