City officials said Tuesday that an ammunition vending machine powered by artificial intelligence selling bullets in a Tuscaloosa grocery store is both real and legal.

During a briefing of the Tuscaloosa City Council before their regular slate of meetings, city council president Kip Tyner asked police chief Brent Blankley and other municipal leaders to explain a vending machine selling people ammunition at the Fresh Value store on at the corner of Skyland and McFarland Boulevards.

"I got some calls about ammunition being sold in grocery store vending machines," Tyner said. "I thought it was a joke, but it's not."

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He's right - the automated dispenser is no joke, it's one of the very first unmanned vending machines installed by American Rounds, a company looking to revolutionize how ammunition for handguns, rifles and shotguns is sold.

The company now has machines in six locations - the Tuscaloosa Fresh Value, plus another location in Pell City, Alabama, and in four grocery stores across Oklahoma.

In a video introducing the concept, CEO Grant Magers said it was the stores who were looking for a way to bring ammo sales to their property, and the vending machines were an innovative answer.

"We're super excited to offer what we think is the first ammo kiosk," said Terry Stanley, COO of Fresh Value. "We're always looking for ways to give our customers another reason to come visit our stores. Anything we can do to help them make their shopping trips easier, based on the feedback we've gotten from customers today, they are so excited about us having this ammo kiosk."

Magers said despite being a new way of distributing bullets and shotgun shells, he considers their AI-fueled facial recognition software safer and more secure than the status quo.

"Traditionally, ammunition is sold at outdoor-type stores, your sporting goods stores, and it just sits on a shelf and it's very accessible and because of that, there's a high rate of theft," Magers said. "With our machines, we have a very secure automated retail machine able to age-verify. We scan a driver's license and take 360 facial recognition for the purchase and match it to the ID."

The council said they were surprised by the American Rounds machine and questioned its legality, but Chief Blankley and other city staff reported that the machines are legal and have been vetted by the ATF. The Fresh Value store where the machine was installed is also appropriately zoned for the sale of ammunition.

It appears the ammo vending machine is here to stay and time will tell how the concept performs financially for the store and American Rounds.

"It's what the founding fathers intended!" Mayor Walt Maddox joked.

For more coverage of issues in the area as they arrive, stay connected to the Tuscaloosa Thread.

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Gallery Credit: (Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)