Mass shooters exploited gun laws, loopholes before carnage

Full Screen
1 / 2

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

In this March 23, 2021, photo, a man leaves a bouquet on a police cruiser parked outside the Boulder Police Department after an officer was one of the victims of a mass shooting at a King Soopers grocery store in Boulder, Colo. The suspects in the most recent shooting sprees found it relatively easy to get their guns. The suspect in the shooting at a Boulder supermarket was convicted of assaulting a high school classmate but still got a gun.(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The suspect in the shooting at a Boulder, Colorado, supermarket was convicted of assaulting a high school classmate but still got a gun. The man accused of opening fire on three massage businesses in the Atlanta area bought his gun just hours before the attack — no waiting required.

They are just the latest suspected U.S. mass shooters to obtain guns because of limited firearms laws, background check lapses or law enforcement’s failure to heed warnings of concerning behavior.

In the wake of the shootings, which together left 18 people dead, President Joe Biden renewed calls for stronger gun laws — including banning assault weapons and expanding background checks. Many Republicans oppose the measures, and the National Rifle Association blasted the discussions as a rush to “politicize this horrific situation.”

A look at how suspects in recent mass shootings obtained guns, based on police accounts, court documents and contemporaneous reporting:


Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa bought a Ruger AR-556 pistol, a semi-automatic weapon with a capacity of up to 30 rounds, on March 16, police said. Days earlier, a judge struck down an ordinance that banned assault rifles and high-capacity magazines in Boulder, citing a state law prohibiting local gun bans. A lawsuit challenging Boulder’s ordinances had the backing of the NRA, which said the ruling gave “law-abiding gun owners something to celebrate.” Alissa was prone to sudden rage and was convicted of misdemeanor assault and sentenced to probation for attacking a high school classmate, law enforcement officials and former associates said. It was not immediately known where Alissa purchased his gun. Colorado has a universal background check law covering almost all gun sales, but that misdemeanor would not have prevented him from purchasing a weapon, experts said. Had he been convicted of a felony, his purchase would've been barred under federal law. Alissa is charged with 10 counts of murder.


Robert Aaron Long purchased a 9 mm handgun just hours before going on a shooting rampage at three massage businesses in the Atlanta area, police said. A lawyer for the gun shop said it complies with federal background check laws. Georgia, like the majority of states, has no waiting period to obtain a gun. Long claimed to have a “sex addiction,” police said, and he spent time at an addiction recovery facility last year. Federal law bans guns for people who are “unlawful users of or addicted to a controlled substance” or who’ve been court ordered to a mental health or substance abuse treatment facility, but doesn’t mention treatment for other compulsions as a barrier to ownership. Long is charged with eight counts of murder.