I hadn’t weighed in on the mass shooting in Boulder until now, primarily because I was already following John’s sage advice about not qualifying myself for an Olympic medal in the Leaping to Conclusions competition. Now that the investigation has made considerable progress and the police are releasing some details, however, we are getting to the point where at least some conclusions can be reached. Other important details have yet to be revealed, but we have enough hints to make an initial assessment. But first, the latest breaking news is that the FBI raided the house of alleged shooter Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa in the pre-dawn hours of Tuesday. And the cops weren’t just interested in Alissa’s residence. They were rousting out all of his neighbors as well. (NY Post)
Residents in the residential street in Arvada say they had a rude awakening around 3 a.m. Tuesday, hours before their 21-year-old Syrian-born neighbor was publicly named as the suspect for Monday’s slaughter of 10 at a King Soopers store about 30 miles away in Boulder.
“THIS IS THE FBI! EVERYBODY COME OUT WITH THEIR HANDS UP!” neighbor T.J. Bresina told The Post of agents’ early-hours swoop that included “a humvee with a megaphone.”
“There was a squad car blocking our road. One officer with his gun drawn and other officers sweeping the street. It was intense! I couldn’t believe it,” recalled the chef who has lived on the street for 23 years.
The press spoke to a number of neighbors after the FBI was finished and a clearer picture of the shooter and his family began to emerge. Alissa is a Muslim Syrian immigrant who came to this country as a child. His father owns a local restaurant and purchased the family home in 2017 for $634,000, so the family isn’t exactly impoverished. But trouble began brewing as soon as they arrived. Neighbors described how there were always large numbers of people there making a lot of noise. The new arrivals supposedly constantly harassed other neighbors to the point where two families moved away.
Add in the shooter’s odd behavior as described by a relative, and it begins to look as he may indeed have had mental health issues, as John suggested yesterday. We’ll need medical records and prior police reports to get a better handle on that part of the story.
Since this shooting is already being used as a political football for Joe Biden to push through more gun control laws, we also need to answer the usual set of questions about this event. First of all, what sort of weapon did Alissa use and how did he get it? As it turns out, the primary weapon was a Ruger SR-556. There was also a handgun recovered at the scene, but there are conflicting reports as to whether that one also belonged to the suspect. The SR-556 is technically a pistol, though it’s generally considered to be a smaller member of the general AR-15 family. That model had been banned in Boulder until only a few days before he went shopping for a weapon last week, but by the time of the sale, it was legally available. Also, Alissa is just 21 years old, but that shouldn’t be a factor since Colorado doesn’t have a minimum age for long guns, though federal laws still apply. The minimum age for handguns is 18. Either way, he was of age.
While we don’t have all of the details of the sale, such as where he purchased his firearm, since the police were able to track it down so quickly, it seems reasonable to assume that he purchased it legally from a licensed dealer. If so, unless the owner was doing something shady, it’s also a reasonable assumption (at least for now) that Alissa passed a background check. Aside from getting in a fight when he was in high school, we’re not yet seeing anything else in his record to indicate he would have been disqualified. I suppose the “acting crazy” story might have led to some sort of red flag law violation and the confiscation of his weapons. The state’s red flag law went into effect on January 1st of last year, but in order to have a judge issue an extreme risk protection order (ERPO), some friend or family member would have had to file a complaint and requested it. There’s no indication at this time that such a thing happened.
Assuming Alissa is found guilty, then he was obviously a homicidal maniac who needs to be put away. But here’s the last of the inevitable questions I mentioned above. If all of the information I listed above turns out to be accurate, what new gun control law currently under consideration would have prevented this shooting? People are demanding even more background checks, but Alissa passed his. Some want higher age limits for gun purchases, but the shooter was 21. How high do you want to raise it? You can try to make the “assault weapon” ban argument if you like, but there are plenty of other semiautomatic rifles on the market that don’t “look scary” and can inflict just as much damage.
Finally, as everyone who considers these questions honestly already knows, shootings like this account for only a tiny fraction of all shootings in America. If you want to reduce the violence, go after the illegally owned guns on the streets.