When John Patrick Bedell walked up to a security checkpoint at the Pentagon subway stop on March 4, he carried with him a pair of semi-automatic pistols. He possessed these weapons, which he used to shoot and injure two police officers, despite "a history of mental health problems" that resulted in his being institutionalized several times.
One of the guns, a 9 mm Ruger, was seized from a felon at a traffic stop by the Memphis Police five years ago. Amazingly, an Associated Press story today recounts how the pistol was later sold by the department and passed among gun dealers until Bedell bought it at a gun show in Nevada a little more than a month before using it in the Pentagon attack.
The fact that he was legally prohibited from purchasing such a weapon made no difference because of the ludicrous "gun show loophole," whereby no background check of any kind is required when purchasing from an unlicensed individual. Astoundingly, the shotgun used in the early January shooting at a Las Vegas courthouse that killed one police officer was also sold by the Memphis Police. Apparently a number of police departments around the country follow this practice, putting more weapons out on the street.
We've all seen the horrific numbers on gun violence in the US -- 30,000 deaths a year from firearms and another 200,000 injuries -- but again our elected officials lack the political will to stand up and do something substantive on the issue. At the least, laws should be changed to make it more difficult to procure deadly weapons at gun shows and to stop the return of confiscated firearms to the streets.