Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Virginia Shooter Bought His Guns Legally

Michael Daly noted in the NY Daily News earlier today that it is very easy to buy a couple of guns in Virginia, a bunch of clips with 15 rounds each in 'em and massacre a bunch of people.

Here's how easy it was:

RICHMOND, Va. - Virginia Tech senior Cho Seung-Hui walked into a Roanoke gun shop five weeks ago, put down a credit card and walked out with a Glock 19 handgun and a box of ammunition. He paid $571.

The Glock was one of two guns found with Cho's fingerprints after he fatally shot 32 people and then himself at the university in the deadliest shooting rampage in modern U.S. history.

Roanoke Firearms owner John Markell said his shop sold the Glock to Cho in March. The serial number had been scratched off, but federal agents traced it to the store using a receipt found in Cho's backpack.

"It was a very unremarkable sale," said Markell, who did not handle the sale personally. "He was a nice, clean-cut college kid. We won't sell a gun if we have any idea at all that a purchase is suspicious."

Markell said it's not unusual for college students to make purchases at his shop as long as they are old enough.

Cho held a green card, meaning he was a legal, permanent resident, according to federal officials. That meant he was eligible to buy a handgun unless he had been convicted of a felony.

"To find out the gun came from my shop is just terrible," Markell said.


Because he killed and injured so many victims in a short span of time, some people speculated that Cho used high-capacity magazines containing as many as 33 rounds in each clip.

Under the federal assault-weapons ban enacted in 1994, magazines were limited to 10 rounds. But that ban was allowed to expire in 2004.

"The key thing that we have seen in all of these school shootings is easy access to high firepower weapons," said Daniel Vice, an attorney with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

"These killings can't be done with baseball bats and knives."

Under Virginia law, state police keep records of gun purchases from licensed dealers for only 30 days. After that, police destroy the records.

I know that gun control is a losing issue for Dems (which is why Pelosi, Reid and the eventual '08 Democratic nominee won't touch the issue) and I long ago gave up any hope that the U.S. will adopt sane gun laws nation-wide in my lifetime.

Columbine didn't change that.

This massacre will not change that.

Americans love their guns.

Americans love their 2nd Amendment.

Here's a comment I got to my last post on this tragedy:

Do you acknowledge a Constitutional right to "Keep & Bear Arms? It almost sounds like you dont.

Gotta love this gun advocate - emblematic of many gun advocates, btw - who has an almost religious devotion to the 2nd Amendment, no matter the carnage caused.

Screw the 30,000 victims of gun violence a year, gimme my constitutional right to bear arms.

No - nothing productive will come out of the Virginia Tech massacre.

The gun lobby is too powerful.

And fanatical.

I heard a talk radio host today claim that the tragedy wouldn't have happened if more people had guns.
I know. I've heard the same today. I'm kinda stunned by that. remember All in the family back in the 70's? Archie Bunker said something similar on the show and the line got huge laughs (as it was meant to.)

The guys we're hearing it from mean it.

Some years ago, Time Magazine put out a special issue on gun violence in America. They covered every firearms death in the country for one week, with a short bio and picture of the victim. I can't remember whether they limited the piece to handguns or not, but it was highly instructive.

The first shocker was the sheer number of victims -- more than 450 in a single week, as I remember. The most common victims were those you might call the usual suspects -- gang members and drug dealers shot during dust-ups with other police characters. The second-most common group was the real shock -- the elderly, often those unwell and alone in the world, who simply lost the will to live.

There were surprisingly few victims of stick-ups; surprising because I would have expected that group to have been the most common from the nature of media coverage. There was a long list of other to-be-expected deaths -- arguments and spousal abuse that turned fatal due to the easy availability of a handgun. There were also some innocents, people who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Least common among all deaths (again surprising because they have been the poster children of the gun lobby) were those of criminals shot in the act by home and business owners protecting life and property.

It was fairly clear that no law governing individuals' gun ownership could have much effect on that weekly bloodbath without seriously abridging individual rights, but that the problem was the ready availability of guns themselves. It was also fairly clear that something needs to be done, and soon, unless we are content to experience the equivalent of the Virginia Tech shooting twice a day, every day, forever.
"He was a nice, clean-cut college kid. We won't sell a gun if we have any idea at all that a purchase is suspicious."

Come again? A college kid plunking down half a month's rent on some killer stero gear, or fancy rims for his car, or the latest peripheral for his computer is normal. A kid buying a gun, particularly one that has no function beyond killing people, is not normal, not in the universe I live in anyway. At the Bass Pro Shop near here, a customer at the gun counter under 35 is an anomaly, and one looking at anything that wasn't a target or hunting weapon would set off the alarms.

I wonder what it would take to raise suspicion in that Va. gun shop -- three swarthy guys with beards, turbans and bad accents?
kicksiron, having never actually bought anything in a gun shop (and certainly not one in Virginia), I have no idea what the protocols are.
I assume you are right about the "Middle Eastern types" getting scrutiny, but I'm almost surprised that Cho didn't get it too because of his Asian background. Of course, at bottom, it may be that as long as you have a driver's license and the proper papers, they sell to anybody and the gun shop owner is simply rationalizing.

I know somebody who killed himself w/ a gun. He was an old man with cancer. I was a neighbor of his for a while, and one day I heard that he had died. I went to his funeral out of respect, but I didn't learn until later that he had killed himself with his gun.

This was in Oregon, where everyone was (proudly) armed, btw. I was the weirdo for not owning (or much enjoying) guns.

I didn't stay in Oregon for long. I never quite got the gun culture and the hunting culture. I'm not making a value judgment. it just wasn't for me, you know?
I think that someone with a gun could have saved some lives in this case, but to say they could have prevented the whole thing is pretty silly.

I am not a purist on gun rights. Registration and background checks are fine, but in this case, what law would have averted this horrific event?

No one wants these things to happen, just as no one wants kids to get addicted to heroin. The question is what to do about it.
I agree that the massacre probably couldn't have been prevented no matter what laws were in place, pt.

If a crazy person wants to kill a bunch of people, all he needs to do is get into a car and drive into a crowd.

In NYC a couple of years ago, a very old man accidentally hit 8 people and killed 3 when he hit the gas instead of the breaks while driving thru Herald Square. That tragedy was an accident, but I remember thinking at the time "Gee, someone could purposely commit mass homicide that way."

So I agree with you that gun laws cannot prevent tragedies like VT.

That said, the one thing that bothers me a bit about the gun advocates I have heard is that many refuse to even consider the possibility that gun laws CAN limit the types of clips that can be used.

Chris Matthews said it best yesterday on Hardball, PT. If this crazy man had had to do his killing w/ a .38, the carnage would have been much more limited than w/ the 9 mm. with the 15 round clip.

I think that is so.

The Founding Fathers never envisioned 9 mm. glocks or automatic weapons w/ cop killer bullets when they wrote the 2nd Amendment.

I dunno, I suppose none of this matter much from a pragmatic stance, because as I said before, I doubt Dem swill take this up as an issue and certainly Repubs won't.
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