Did the Navy Yard shooter try to buy an AR-15?
posted at 9:21 am on September 18, 2013 by Ed Morrissey
That’s what the New York Times reported yesterday, after gun-control demagoguesin the media had to at least partially retract their claims that the shooter used an AR-15 to murder 12 people. It took them several hours to acknowledge the FBI’s report that no AR-15 was used at all in the crime, nor did the shooter have one in his possession. According to “law enforcement sources” talking to the Times, Aaron Alexis got turned down in his attempt to buy a so-called assault weapon:
The suspect in the killing of 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard on Monday test-fired an AR-15 assault rifle at a Virginia gun store last week but was stopped from buying one because state law there prohibits the sale of such weapons to out-of-state buyers, according to two senior law enforcement officials.
Instead, the suspect, Aaron Alexis of Texas, bought a law-enforcement-style shotgun — an 870 Remington pump-action — and used it on Monday as he rampaged through the navy yard, said the officials, who requested anonymity because the investigation was continuing.
Emily Miller of the Washington Times dispensed with law-enforcement sources and spoke directly to the store that sold Alexis the shotgun. She found that the shooter passed two background checks and bought a shotgun with a small amount of ammunition, but never attempted to purchase an AR-15, or any kind of rifle or pistol either:
Aaron Alexis passed Federal Bureau Investigation and Virginia state background checks to purchase a shotgun from Sharpshooters Small Arms Range in Lorton, Va., over the weekend.
Alexis did not attempt to purchase a rifle or handgun from the store, The Washington Times has learned exclusively.
Furthermore, contra the Paper of Record, no such law in Virginia would have prevented the sale of an AR-15 to an out-of-state purchaser that passes those background checks:
The first line says: “The gunman who killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard on Monday test fired an AR-15 assault rifle at a Virginia gun store last week but was stopped from buying one because state law there prohibits the sale of such weapons to out-of-state buyers, according to two senior law enforcement officials.”
Apparently neither the reporter nor his editors took the time to fact check their vague “law enforcement officials” sources.
“Virginia law does not prohibit the sale of assault rifles to out-of-state citizens who have proper identification,” Dan Peterson, a Virginia firearms attorney, told me Tuesday night. The required identification is proof of residency in another state and of U.S. citizenship, which can be items like a passport, birth certificate or voter identification card.
Miller writes that federal law is also clear on this point:
Federal law is clear on this residency issue. A quick glance at the ATF website would have informed the New York Times journalists that a person may buy a rifle or shotgun, in person, at a federal firearms licensee’s premises in any state, provided the sale complies with state laws, which it would in this case.
Perhaps they were confused with the federal law on handguns, which can only be sold or transferred through dealers in the same state as the buyer.
Perhaps the media might try a little fact-checking before reporting, especially in its news sections. Of course, for media outlets like the New York Times, accuracy is often secondary to pushing the narrative.
Addendum: NPR managed to get this right:
Aaron Alexis, the man police say killed 12 people Monday at the Washington Navy Yard, went to a gun store and shooting range in suburban Northern Virginia the day before, an attorney for the shop has told NPR.
On Morning Edition, NPR’s Joseph Shapiro reported that The Sharpshooters Range in Lorton, Va., ran Alexis’ name through the FBI and state of Virginia background check system. Alexis was approved and he purchased a Remington 870 shotgun and about 24 shells, Joe says.
Alexis also rented a rifle and practiced shooting at the shop’s range.
The Media Narrative Collective will want a word with Mark Memmott, I’m sure. Piers Morgan on line 3, Mark!