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John Rosenthal Headshot

Pentagon Shooting: Truth Is Stranger than Fiction

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The March 14th Associated Press Exclusive story entitled "Pentagon gun was from Tenn. Police" is a perfect example of our failed gun policies in the United States. Lets review the simple facts. Because there is no national law requiring a criminal background check for all gun sales in the United States, including private sales in 33 States and at thousands of annual gun shows, John Patrick Bedell, with a long history of mental illness, was able to buy his two handguns at a Las Vegas gun show without a background check and then shoot Military Guards at the Pentagon. Incredibly one of the weapons, a 9mm Ruger had been confiscated from a convicted felon by the Memphis Tenn. police at a 2005 traffic stop and then traded to a gun dealer by the Department to raise money for the Memphis Police budget. The weapon then made it's way to a private gun seller at a Nevada gun show and the rest is history.

Unfortunately, it's not uncommon for Police departments to resell their service weapons. In fact, gun dealers will pay a premium for police weapons and then resell them to "private gun dealers" and criminals who perversely covet former police weapons. Many police departments like Boston have stopped this dangerous and short sighted resale practice and hopefully the Pentagon shooting will encourage all police departments across the US to follow their lead.

It's equally common for criminals and terrorists to exploit the same private gun sale loophole that the Pentagon shooter, John Bedell used. At thousands gun shows each year in the US, criminals and terrorists are allowed to purchase firearms from private gun dealers without an ID or background check. Although many dealers at gun shows are federally licensed and therefore legally required to contact the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NCIS) to ensure that a prospective purchaser is not prohibited from possessing firearms, private sellers have no such requirement. This dangerous "gun show loophole" has allowed criminals and terrorists to legally buy and sell guns in the US on a cash-and-carry, no-questions-asked basis for years. The following are just a few proven and frightening examples of how terrorists and criminals have bought guns undetected at US Gun Shows.

A manual titled, "How Can I Train Myself for Jihad" was found among the rubble at a training facility for a radical Pakistan-based Islamic terrorist organization. The manual contains a chapter on "Firearms Training" and singles out the US for its easy availability of firearms and states that al-Qaeda members in the US can "obtain an assault weapon legally, preferably AK-47 or variations". In Texas, Muhammad Asrar was arrested in an investigation of the Sept. 11 attacks. He pleaded guilty to immigration violations and illegal possession of ammunition. The Pakistani store owner said he had bought handguns, rifles and a submachine gun at gun shows since 1994. On September 10, 2001, just one day before the devastating attacks against the United States, Ali Boumelhem was convicted on a variety of weapons violations plus conspiracy to ship weapons to the terrorist organization Hezbollah in Lebanon. He and his brother Mohamed had purchased an arsenal of shotguns, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, flash suppressors and assault weapons parts from Michigan gun shows without undergoing background checks.

On April 20, 1999, in the deadliest High school shooting in United States history in Littleton Colorado, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold procured two shotguns, an assault rifle and a TEC-9 assault pistol and shot 26 students, killing 13 of them before turning the guns on themselves. Subsequent investigation by the ATF found that all four of the weapons had been purchased from private sellers at gun shows. Some of the guns were purchased for the killers by their friend, Robyn Anderson. Later, Ms. Anderson would state publicly that, had she been required to undergo a background check at the gun show, she would not have purchased the guns for the teens.

Branch Davidian cult leader David Koresh used Texas gun shows to make large gun purchases. According to an ATF arrest warrant, Koresh and his cult made "regular purchases of weapons and ammunition [from] flea markets and gun shows." In the end, authorities estimated that Koresh had at least 200 automatic and semi-automatic assault rifles stockpiled, plus thousands of rounds of ammunition. Finally Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh, was a "Private Seller" at Gun Shows. He along with accomplice Michael Fortier, admitted to stealing $60,000 worth of shotguns, rifles and handguns from an Arkansas gun collector's ranch and then reselling the stolen weapons at gun shows.

It's just common sense that buyers and sellers at gun shows be required to abide by the same reasonable standards that law abiding gun buyers and the majority of Federally Licensed gun dealers comply with. It's not too much to ask that criminals, terrorists and people with a history of mental illness who have been known to exploit the "Gun Show Loophole" undergo criminal background checks and show ID's before they buy guns in the US. The majority of Americans including gun owners like myself support closing this dangerous loophole. It's time for the President and Congress to act.