Mass shooters exploited gun laws, loopholes from carnage

The suspects in the shootings at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, and a convenience store in Buffalo, New York, were both just 18 when they bought the guns used in the attacks, authorities said. They were too young to legally buy alcohol or cigarettes, but old enough to arm themselves with offensive weapons.

They are just the latest suspected US mass shooters whose ability to obtain weapons is a cause for concern. Some shooters legally have guns under applicable gun laws or due to background check failures or law enforcement failure to heed warnings of behavior of concern.

Here’s how some suspects got to their guns in shootings that killed at least 10 people:

UVALDE, TEXAS: MAY 24, 2022. 21 DEAD.

Salvador Ramos legally bought two guns – an AR-style rifle from a state-licensed gun dealer in the Uvalde area on May 17 – in the days before the attack that killed 19 students and two teachers at Robb Elementary School and a second rifle on May 20. Ramos made the purchases just days after turning 18, the legal age to purchase a rifle. He also bought several hundred rounds of ammunition. At least one of the rifles was modeled after the US military’s M4 carbine rifle, albeit without the M4’s ability to switch to full auto or fire a three-round burst. Ramos was killed at school by a border patrol team.

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BUFFALO, NEW YORK: MAY 14, 2022. 10 DEAD.

Payton Gendron legally purchased the Bushmaster XM-15 E2S used in the Tops Friendly Market attack from a state-licensed gun dealer near his home in Conklin, New York, about 200 miles (320 kilometers) southeast of Buffalo . In an online diary that surfaced after the attack, Gendron said he bought an AR-15-style gun in January, bought a shotgun in December, and received a rifle from his father as a Christmas present when he was 16 . Last year, Gendron was taken to a hospital for a psychiatric evaluation under a state mental health law after writing “murder-suicide” in response to a teacher’s question. New York is one of 19 states with red-flag laws that allow courts to confiscate guns from individuals who pose an imminent threat, but that was not the case for Gendron, who was 17 at the time. State police described his threat as “general in nature.” Gendron is charged with murder.

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BOULDER, COLORADO: MARCH 22, 2021. 10 DEAD.

Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa bought a Ruger AR-556 pistol, a semi-automatic weapon with a capacity of up to 30 rounds, six days before the King Soopers grocery store shooting, police said. Prone to sudden anger, Alissa was convicted of assault and given a suspended sentence for assaulting a high school classmate. Colorado has a universal background check law that covers nearly all gun sales, but that misdemeanor wouldn’t have stopped him from buying a gun, experts said. Had it been a crime, federal law would have prohibited his purchase. A judge has ruled that Alissa is mentally unfit to stand trial.

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EL PASO, TEXAS: AUG. 3, 2019. 23 DEAD.

Patrick Crusius bought an AK-47 rifle and 1,000 rounds of hollow point ammo online 45 days before he walked into a Walmart store and opened fire, killing 23 people and injuring two dozen others before admitting he was targeting Mexicans . according to the prosecutor. A lawyer for the Crusius family said his mother raised concerns about the purchase in a call to police on June 27. Police said they asked if Crusius, then 21, was old enough to buy a gun. Police said they had been reassured that he was if he passed a background check and had seen no change in his behavior recently. He faces capital murder charges in Texas and federal hate crimes and firearms offenses.

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VIRGINIA BEACH, VIRGINIA: MAY 31, 2019. 12 DEAD.

DeWayne Craddock, a former City of Virginia Beach employee, legally purchased six firearms, including the two .45 caliber pistols used in the attack, in the three years before he opened fire on a city building. A city-commissioned review of the shooting found that Craddock displayed no warning signs or “prohibited conduct related to a pathway to violence” and had no known history of mental health treatment. Craddock was killed by police. ___

THOUSAND OAKERS, CALIFORNIA: NOV. 7, 2018. 12 DEAD.

Ian David Long, a former Marine machine gunner who served in Afghanistan, used a legally purchased .45 caliber pistol with an extended magazine in the Borderline Bar & Grill shootout. Months before the shooting, sheriff’s deputies called to Long’s home found he was acting irrationally, but a mental health specialist didn’t feel he needed involuntary institutionalization. California has a red flag law, but there is no indication that authorities have sought a court order to take away Long’s guns. Long killed himself.

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PITTSBURGH: OCT. 27, 2018. 11 DEAD.

Robert Gregory Bowers was Carry licensed and lawfully owned the Colt AR-15 SP1 and three Glock .357 handguns. Police said he killed believers at the Tree of Life synagogue. Bowers spent months posting rants against Jews on Gab, a social media site favored by far-right extremists. He also posted photos of his “Glock family.” Shortly before the attack, he posted a screed against a Jewish organization that read, “Fuck the optics, I’m going in.” None of the rhetoric seemed to raise any red flags. His case is pending. ___

SANTA FE, TEXAS: MAY. 18th, 2018. 10 DEAD.

Dimitrios Pagourtzis, a 17-year-old college student, used a shotgun and .38-caliber pistol that his father legally purchased and kept in a closet at their home, authorities said. Before the attack, Pagourtzis posted a photo on social media of a T-shirt that said “Born to Kill” and had writings showing he was planning to attack his high school. A judge sent him to a psychiatric facility after ruling he was unfit to stand trial.

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PARKLAND, FLORIDA: FEB. 14, 2018. 17 DEAD.

Nikolas Cruz legally purchased a Smith & Wesson M&P 15 rifle from a licensed dealer a few miles from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February 2017, authorities said. He had been treated in a psychiatric hospital but had not been there for more than a year. Federal law prohibits gun purchases when a court declares a person “mentally retarded” or commits that person to an institution, but not when the person voluntarily seeks treatment. Cruz was 19 at the time of filming. He pleaded guilty in October. A four-month criminal trial due to begin this summer will determine whether he should be sentenced to death or life in prison without parole.

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SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, TEXAS: NOV. 5, 2017. 25 DEAD.

Devin Patrick Kelley’s history of domestic violence prevented him from buying guns. He was able to do this because information about his crimes was never entered into a federal database used for background checks. The Air Force failed to follow rules mandating reporting his conduct to the FBI. Kelley purchased four guns over a four-year period, including an AR-15-style rifle found at First Baptist Church, from licensed dealers in Texas and Colorado. Kelley killed herself. ___

LAS VEGAS: OCT. 1, 2017. 58 DEAD.

Stephen Paddock bought 33 of the 49 guns found in his hotel room and homes the year before he opened fire at a country music festival. Paddock passed all background checks. His gradual accumulation of guns went undetected because federal law does not require licensed gun dealers to notify the government of gun purchases. Paddock killed himself. ___

ORLANDO, FLORIDA: JUNE 12, 2016. 49 DEAD.

Omar Mateen purchased an AR-15 rifle, a Sig Sauer MCX, and a handgun from a licensed dealer on separate days about a week before the Pulse nightclub attack. He passed a background check and had a security license that allowed him to be armed on duty. The FBI investigated Mateen in 2013 and 2014 over concerns from colleagues that he had spoken out about ties to terrorist groups. None of the investigations led to charges. Even though he was placed on a terrorism watch list, Congress in 2015 rejected attempts to block those on the list from buying guns. Mateen was killed by the police.

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SAN BERNARDINO, CALIFORNIA: DEC. 2, 2015. 14 DEAD.

Syed Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik used guns, the FBI said his neighbor Enrique Marquez bought them legally from a licensed firearm dealer in 2011 and 2012. He told investigators Farook asked him to buy the guns because he would draw less attention. Farook and Malik were killed by the police.

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ROSEBURG, OREGON: OCT. 1, 2015. 10 DEAD.

Christopher Harper-Mercer and his family members legally purchased the handguns and rifle used in the Umpqua Community College shooting from a licensed dealer. Investigators found six guns at the college and eight in an apartment. Neighbors said Harper-Mercer and his mother went shooting together. Harper-Mercer killed himself after being wounded by police.

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WASHINGTON: SEPT. 16, 2013. 12 DEAD.

Aaron Alexis, a former reservist-turned-civilian contractor, passed background checks and legally purchased the shotgun used in the Washington Navy Yard shooting, despite recent mental health treatment and a history of violent outbursts. He had previously fired a gun twice in anger but was never prosecuted. Alexis was killed by the police.

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NEWTOWN, CONNECTICUT: DEC. 14th, 2012. 26 DEAD.

Adam Lanza used his mother’s weapons, including a .223 caliber semi-automatic rifle, in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. Lanza’s mother, whom he fatally shot before he went to school, also bought the ammunition. Lanza killed herself. ___

AURORA, COLORADO: JULY 20, 2012. 12 DEAD.

James Holmes was under psychiatric treatment when he passed required state background checks and legally purchased the weapons he used in his attack on the cinema. As in the Parkland and Navy Yard cases, treatment alone did not prevent him from buying guns. He was found guilty and sentenced to 12 life terms and thousands of years in prison.

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