Yesterday, federal authorities announced that one of William Spengler's former neighbors, Dawn Nguyen, had been charged with buying two of the guns Spengler used in the shooting and falsely claiming she was the owner. The more I think about it, I'm starting to think that the Webster shooting may be an even stronger case for common-sense reform to our gun laws and regulations than Sandy Hook.
How's that, you ask? Well, all indications are that Sandy Hook probably would not have happened if there had been a federal assault weapons ban. However, if the timeline laid out yesterday about the Webster shooting is to be believed, Spengler got those guns as the result of a complete breakdown of the safeguards that are in place to keep any gun--not just assault weapons--out of the hands of people who have no business having them.
According to the criminal compliant against Nguyen, she bought the guns at a Gander Mountain in Henrietta, another Rochester suburb while Spengler was with her. The only reasonable inference is that the salesperson at that store wasn't adequately trained to spot signs that a person is buying the guns for someone who isn't allowed to have them. Unless there's no real way to red-flag a sale when there are signs of a straw purchase, we may have a problem at least as serious as the gun show loophole.
The NRA is going to wring its hands over any attempt to reintroduce the assault weapons ban. That's a no-brainer. But if Wayne LaPierre and the NRA are dense enough to oppose common-sense ways to make it harder for convicted felons and other people who can't legally buy a gun, then they really have gone off the deep end. After all, unless I'm really wrong, two firemen are dead and eight families lost their homes because there doesn't seem to be a way to head off straw purchases at the pass. For those who don't remember, the firemen were unable to tackle the blaze for five hours after Spengler opened up--and as a result, six other houses burned to the ground and two others were so badly damaged that they will have to be torn down.
When I worked as a cashier at a grocery store back in my high school and college days, we had it drilled into our heads that if we sold alcohol to an underage person, we could face charges ourselves. It should be no different with selling guns. It's obvious that if there are similar penalties for gun sellers who sell guns to people who aren't supposed to have them, they need to be tougher.
3:55 PM PT: Several commenters have raised the possibility that Adam Lanza's Bushmaster may have been legal under the 1994-2004 ban--which is a pretty strong argument to make any new ban tougher. But the point is that while Sandy Hook may have been proof that these minor-league versions of military rifles don't need to be on the streets, Webster is proof that we need to take a serious look at our gun laws in general.