Authorities say that the two suspects in the attack on a Uvalde elementary school in Texas and a Buffalo supermarket in New York were just 18 when they purchased the weapons. Although too young to legally buy alcohol or cigarettes, they were old enough to purchase assault-style weapons.
The suspect in Buffalo was taken to hospital for a mental evaluation. However, the incident did not trigger New York's "red Flag" law. He was still allowed to buy a gun. According to the mother of the suspect in Texas, he could sometimes give her "uneasy feelings" and can "be aggressive... Authorities say that he did not have any criminal or mental history. This red flag law is not available in the state.
These are the latest suspects in U.S. mass shootings whose access to guns has raised questions. Some shooters obtained guns legally through current firearms laws. Others were able to obtain guns because of background checks that failed or the failure of law enforcement to listen to warnings about concerning behavior.
Following the shootings that left 31 people dead, President Joe Biden reaffirmed his calls for stricter gun laws. He also questioned whether anyone under 18 should be allowed firearms. Biden has previously called for the banning of assault-style weapons as well as expanding background checks. Many Republicans are opposed to the measures.
Based on contemporaneous reporting, court documents, and police accounts, this article examines how mass shooting suspects obtained guns over the past decade.
UVALDE, TEXAS MAY 24, 2022. 21 DEAD.
Salvador Ramos legally bought two guns just days before the attack on Robb Elementary School that killed 19 students and 2 teachers. One was an AR-style rifle purchased from a Uvalde gun dealer on May 17, and the other on May 20. Ramos purchased the guns just days after turning 18 as federal law requires. Ramos also bought several hundred rounds ammunition. Daniel Defense made at least one rifle. It was the DDM4, a DDM4 rifle. The rifle is a replica of the U.S. military M4 carbine rifle. However, it does not have the ability to fire three-round bursts or switch to full automatic. Biden stated that it was wrong for an 18-year old kid to go into a gun shop and purchase two assault weapons. A Border Patrol team killed Ramos at the school.
BUFFALO, NEW YORK: MAY 14, 2022. 10 DEAD.
Payton Gendron purchased the Bushmaster XM-15 E2S used to attack Tops Friendly Market legally from a federally licensed gun seller near Conklin, New York. This is about 200 miles (320 km) southeast of Buffalo. Gendron revealed in an online journal that he purchased the AR-15-style weapon in January and a shotgun December. He also received a rifle from his father as a Christmas gift when he was 16. Gendron, who wrote "murder-suicide", in response to a teacher’s question, was taken to hospital for a psychiatric assessment. New York is one 19-state state with red flag laws, which allow courts to confiscate guns from persons posing an immediate threat. Gendron was only 17 at the time. The threat was described by the state police as "general in character" and didn't mention firearms or shooting. Kathy Hochul signed an executive directive underscoring red flag intervention and stating that she would try to prohibit anyone under 21 from purchasing semi-automatic weapons within the state. California's similar law was declared unconstitutional. Gendron is accused of murder.
SAN JOSE (CALIFORNIA): MAY 26, 2021. 9 DEAD.
Samuel James Cassidy legally bought the three 9mm handguns that he used to murder his co-workers, and then himself at Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority rail yard. A dozen guns and 25,000 rounds ammunition were also stored at Cassidy's home. He set it ablaze prior to the shooting and had high-capacity magazines which may have been illegal according to California law depending on their purchase date. Santa Clara's District Attorney stated that authorities would have sought to remove Cassidy's weapons under the state's red-flag law if U.S. Customs and Border Protection had informed them of a "Significant Encounter” with Cassidy after he returned from the Philippines in 2016. In a report, Customs agents stated that Cassidy had "dark thoughts about hurting" two people and had a memo in which he resentful of the transit agency.
BOULDER COLORADO, MARCH 22, 2021 10 DEAD.
Police said that Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa purchased a Ruger AR-556 pistol. This semi-automatic weapon has a maximum capacity of 30 rounds and was bought six days prior to the attack at King Soopers grocery. Alissa, who was known for his sudden rage, was convicted and sentenced to probation. He had attacked a high school classmate. Experts said that although Colorado has a universal background checking law that covers almost all gun sales it would not have prevented Alissa from purchasing a weapon. Federal law would have prohibited him from purchasing a weapon if he had been convicted of a felony. A judge in Boulder struck down ordinances prohibiting assault-style rifles, high-capacity magazines, and other firearms days before the shooting. He cited a state law that prohibited local gun bans. The lawsuit challenging the ordinances was supported by the NRA. Last month, a judge ruled Alissa mentally incompetent for trial.
ATLANTA: 16 MARCH 2021 8 DEAD.
Police said that Robert Aaron Long bought a 9mm handgun hours before he went on a shooting spree at three Atlanta-area massage shops. The gun shop's lawyer said that it is compliant with federal background checks laws. Georgia is like most states in that there is no waiting period for gun purchases. Police said Long claimed he had a "sex addiction" and that he was in a treatment facility for addiction. Federal law prohibits the possession of guns by people who "unlawfully use or are addicted to controlled substances" or have been ordered to treatment facilities for mental or substance abuse. However, it does not mention any other compulsions. Long means that you are serving a sentence for life without parole.
MIDLAND, TEXAS: AUG. 31, 2019. 7 DEAD.
Seth Aaron Ator bought an AR-style rifle at a private auction, which allowed him to avoid a federal background search. He then fired the weapon indiscriminately out of his car into passing cars and shopping malls. Ator also stole a mail truck and killed the driver. According to a law enforcement official, Ator was prevented from purchasing a gun in 2014. His background check was flagged after a court found that he was mentally ill. Private sales, which can account for as much as 40% of all gun sales, don't have to go through a federal background check. Private sellers don't need to know if the buyer is eligible to purchase a gun. Ator was shot and killed by police.
DAYTON, OHIO: AUG. 4, 2019. 9 DEAD.
Connor Betts' high school classmates claimed that he was suspended for compiling a hit list and a rape list. However, authorities stated that nothing in Betts' past prevented him from buying the AR-15-style gun used in the shooting at Ned Peppers Bar. Ohio law requires that any sealed records of juvenile crimes be erased after five years or when the offender turns 23. Betts was 24 years old at the time of shooting and purchased the gun online through a Texas dealer. The gun was then shipped to a Dayton-area firearms retailer, according to federal law. Police killed Betts.
EL PASO (TEXAS), AUG. 3, 2019. 23 DEAD.
45 days prior to his attack on Walmart, Patrick Crusius purchased an AK47-style rifle online and 1,000 rounds hollow-point ammunition. Crusius' mother called police to express concerns about Crusius' purchase, according to a Crusius lawyer. Police stated that she called police to ask Crusius, then 21, if he was legally allowed to purchase a gun. Police stated that she was certain he was, and that he would be able to qualify if he passes a background check. According to police, she was only concerned about his safety and had not seen any changes in his behavior. Crusius made a racist online post just before the attack, and seemed to be targeting Mexicans. He was charged with capital murder in Texas, federal hate crimes, and firearms offenses.
VIRGINIA BEACH (VIRGINIA), MAY 31, 2019. 12 DEAD.
DeWayne Craddock, a former employee of Virginia Beach, legally bought six firearms within the three years preceding he opened fire at a municipal building. This included the two.45 caliber pistols that were used in the attack. Independent review of the shooting was commissioned by Virginia Beach. It found that Craddock had not displayed any warning signs or "prohibited behavior associated with a path to violence" and that he did not have any history of mental illness treatment. Craddock was shot and killed by police. ___
THOUSAND OAKS CALIFORNIA, NOV. 7, 2018. 12 DEAD.
Ian David Long, a former Marine Machine Gunner, used a legally bought.45-caliber pistol and an extended magazine to shoot at Borderline Bar & Grill. California attempted to ban high-capacity magazines but a federal judge ruled in favor of the gun rights group. A few months before the shooting, Long was acting irrationally when sheriff's deputies visited his home. However, a mental health specialist decided that he didn't need to be committed. California has a red-flag law. However, there is no indication that authorities sought a court order for Long's guns to be taken away. Long committed suicide.
PITTSBURGH: OCT. 27, 2018. 11 DEAD.
Robert Gregory Bowers was a licensed carry and legally owned three Glock.357 handguns and the Colt AR-15 SP1 pistol. Police also said that Bowers used them to kill Tree of Life worshipers. Bowers spent months posting hateful comments about Jews on Gab, a popular social media site that is favored by right-wing extremists. Bowers also posted photos of his "glock" family. Just before the attack, he wrote a rant against a Jewish organization that resettles refugee refugees. He said: "I can’t stand by and watch my people being slaughtered." Screw your optics. I'm going in." Nothing about the rhetoric raised red flags. His case is currently pending. ___
SANTA FE TEXAS: MAY. 18, 2018. 10 DEAD.
Dimitrios Pagourtzis (17-year-old student) used a shotgun, and a.38 caliber handgun, that his father legally purchased and kept in their closet, authorities stated. His father didn't know he had taken the guns, it was unclear. Pagourtzis had posted a picture on social media with a T-shirt that said "Born to Kill" along with writings, indicating that he intended to attack his high school. After deciding that he was not competent to stand trial, a judge sent him to a mental facility. High school
PARKLAND, FLORIDA: FEB. 14, 2018. 17 DEAD.
Nikolas Cruz purchased a Smith & Wesson M&P-15 rifle legally from a licensed dealer in February 2017. He was located just a few miles away from Marjory Stoneman Doug High School, authorities stated. Although he had been in a mental hospital for over a year, he hadn't been back. Federal law prohibits guns being purchased if a court declares someone a "mental defect" or commits them to an institution. However, this does not apply if they seek treatment on their own. Cruz was only 19 at the time. In October, he pleaded guilty. He pleaded guilty in October. This summer, a four-month penalty trial will begin. It will decide if he is sentenced with life or death. ___
SUTHERLAND SPRINGS (TEXAS), NOV. 5, 2017. 25 DEAD.
Devin Patrick Kelley was barred from purchasing guns because of his history of domestic abuse. Because he did not have any information about his criminal history, he was allowed to buy guns. The Air Force did not follow the rules that required it to inform the FBI about Kelley's conduct. Over a period of four years, Kelley bought four guns, including an AR-15 style rifle from First Baptist Church. Kelley committed suicide. ___
LAS VEGAS: OCT. 1, 2017. 58 DEAD.
Stephen Paddock bought 33 of 49 weapons that were found in his hotel room, and in his homes the year before he started a fire at a country music festival. All background checks were passed by Paddock. Because federal law doesn’t require licensed gun dealers or to notify the government about rifle purchases, Paddock’s gradual accumulation of weapons went unnoticed. Paddock committed suicide. ___
ORLANDO (FLORIDA), JUNE 12, 2016. 49 DEAD.
Omar Mateen bought an AR-15-style rifle and a Sig Sauer MCX handgun from a licensed dealer. This was about a week prior to the Pulse nightclub shooting. Mateen passed a background check, and was issued a security permit that allowed him to carry weapons while on duty. Mateen was investigated by the FBI in 2013 and 2014. His coworkers were concerned that Mateen had spoken of terrorist links. Both inquiries did not lead to charges. Even if Mateen had been placed on a terrorist watch list, Congress rejected in 2015 attempts to stop people on the list purchasing guns. Police killed Mateen.
SAN BERNARDINO (CALIFORNIA): DEC. 2, 2015. 14 DEAD.
Tashfeen Malik and Syed Farook used weapons that the FBI claimed Enrique Marquez, his neighbor, had legally bought from a licensed dealer in 2011 or 2012. Marquez pleaded guilty in the conspiracy to support terrorists and false statements to obtain a firearm. Farook told him that he asked him to purchase the weapons so he would be less visible. Police killed Farook and Malik.
ROSEBURG, OREGON: OCT. 1, 2015. 10 DEAD.
Christopher Harper-Mercer purchased legally the rifle and handgun used in the Umpqua Community College shoot from a licensed dealer. Investigators discovered six guns at the college, and eight in an apartment. According to neighbors, Harper-Mercer was accompanied by his mother when he went target shooting. Harper-Mercer was injured by police and killed himself.
CHARLESTON (SOUTH CAROLINA): JUNE 17, 2015. 9 DEAD.
Dylann Roof should have been arrested for drug possession, but a record-keeping mistake and background check delay allowed the transaction to proceed. According to the FBI, a background check examiner did not see the arrest report as the wrong agency had been listed in the state criminal history records. The gun dealer was legal permitted to close the deal after three days. He was convicted, and is currently on federal death row.
WASHINGTON: SEPT. 16, 2013. 12 DEAD.
Aaron Alexis, a former reservist and civilian contractor, passed background screening and legally purchased the shotgun that was used in the shooting at the Washington Navy Yard. This despite his recent mental health treatment and history of violent outbursts. Alexis previously shot a gun in anger two times, but he was not prosecuted in either of those cases. Alexis was shot and killed by police.
NEWTOWN, CONNECTICUT: DEC. 14, 2012. 26 DEAD.
Adam Lanza used the weapons of his mother, including a semi-automatic rifle with a.223 caliber, in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. Lanza's mother was also a gun owner. Lanza killed himself. ___
AURORA COLORADO, JULY 20, 2012. 12 DEAD.
James Holmes was in psychiatric care and had just completed his federal background checks. He then legally purchased the guns he used to attack the movie theater. Like in the Parkland or Navy Yard cases treatment did not stop him from purchasing guns. He was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment for life and thousands of years.