Gun Violence

Gun Violence

STEM School Shooting Leaves 1 Dead and 8 Injured

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Denver, Colorado was rocked this week by another school shooting. The STEM School in Highlands Ranch was the location of the shooting, when two suspects entered the school and opened fire. The school is a K-12 facility, with the shootings occurring in the middle school section of the building.

During the afternoon on May 7th, around 2 p.m., Devon Michael Erickson, 18, and Alec McKinney, 16, entered the school. They used the middle school door, as it did not have metal detectors. The made their way further into the school and entered a classroom.

One student in the classroom, Kendrick Castillo, 18, attempted to subdue Erickson, but was shot. More students rushed to assist Castillo as more shots were fired. The presence of the two suspects had already instigated a call to police, who were quick to arrive on the scene. Holly Nicholson-Kluth, a local Undersheriff who was part of the response team, reported hearing gunshots as police arrived.

When police reached the suspects, one had already been subdued and restrained. Both were apprehended without exchanging gunfire with authorities.

Unfortunately, Kendrick Castillo’s injuries were fatal. He was expected to graduate just three days later. Of the other eight students, five had been released from the hospital by the following morning, while three remained in intensive care. All of the victims were over the age of 15.

According to authorities, the suspects carried two handguns. Investigators reported that Erickson had taken his parents guns without their knowledge. His parents had legally purchased the guns. It is unknown what the motive behind the shootings was.

Erickson and McKinney face multiple charges, 48 in total, to include murder in the first degree, arson, possession of weapons on school property and theft. McKinney will be facing these charges as an adult.

The STEM School is located around eight miles from Columbine High School, notable for the mass shooting that occurred there in 1999. This current shooting adds to the list of active shooter incidents that have occurred in Colorado since the Columbine shooting.

Colorado’s Governor Jared Polis stated on Twitter, “We are making all of our public safety resources available to assist the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department in their effort to secure the site and evacuate the students. We are monitoring the situation in real time. The heart of all Colorado is with the victims & their families.”

Officials at the White House also spoke out in regard to the shooting. “Our prayers are with the victims, family members, and all those affected by today’s shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch in Littleton, Colorado. Tragically, this community and those surrounding it know all too well these hateful and horrible acts of violence. The White House has been in communication with state and local officials, and the President has been briefed and continues to monitor the ongoing situation. We offer our full support to local law enforcement and first responders and thank them for their heroism.”

Musician Kyle Yorlets Dead at 24 – Police Arrest 5 Teens for the Shooting Death

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Nashville Police have arrested five suspects, and charged them with murder, in the death of musician Kyle Yorlets, 24. The group of five consisted of three girls and two boys, ranging in age from 12-16 years old.

On Thursday night, the five youths were driving/loitering behind Yorlets’ home on Torbett Street in the 3200 block. The group spotted Yorlets as they drove through the alley in a stolen pickup truck. Upon seeing the victim, the group confronted Yorlets, demanding his wallet and car keys.

Authorities believe Yorlets refused to comply and the youths shot him. The shooting occurred outside the house, but Yorlets managed to crawl back into the home. Later in the day, around 3 p.m., a roommate discovered Yorlets and then called 911. First responders took Yorlets to Vanderbilt University Medical Center, though he was pronounced dead on arrival.

Witnesses reported having seen a few young people running to a pickup truck at the time of the shooting. Based on descriptions from eye witnesses, Nashville authorities determined they were already looking for one of the five minors, a 12-year-old girl reported as a runaway. Police had turned up Snapchat posts, during the search, that showed the 12-year-old “with other young people with guns.”

Nashville Police believe the minors stole the Chevrolet pickup truck from Oak Grove in Kentucky, where it was reported stolen. Officials reported that the truck was abandoned on Timberland Drive, in Nashville’s Hermitage Precinct. The youths were later spotted at the Walmart in West Nashville.

When officers apprehended the teens, one of them was carrying a 9mm pistol that was loaded. After further investigation, another loaded gun was found in the Walmart. Both weapons had been reported stolen, one of which had been missing since 2018 after being stolen in South Nashville. Both weapons were reported stolen after the vehicles they were in had been stolen.

The two youngest members of the group cannot have their identities publicized due to the severity of the case and their young age, so all names are being withheld at this time.

It is expected that the four oldest teens will be charged as adults in this crime, but the attorney for the youngest girl, 12, argued that her case should not be tried in adult court. However, Stacy Miller, the Assistant District Attorney, disagreed. She argued that the girl did not run away, nor did she call the police, thus she is as culpable as the other four.

Though it is rare, it is not unheard of for Nashville to prosecute a pre-teen as an adult. In 1997, Terrence McLaurine was charged with and convicted of murder as an adult. Tennessee currently has approximately 185 prisoners with life sentences from crimes committed in their teens, seven of which were only 14 when they were convicted.

First-Degree Murder Charges Brought Against Nashville Officer in Shooting of Daniel Hambrick

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Nashville Police Officer Andrew Delke is now being indicted for murder in the first degree for the shooting death of Daniel Hambrick. At 25 years old, Delke is the only officer with Nashville to have been charged following a shooting on-duty.

According to prosecutors, Hambrick was in a parking lot when he was observed by Delke, while the officer was pursuing a traffic stop. Upon seeing Delke, Hambrick fled the area. Delke, in turn, left his vehicle and pursued Hambrick. During the course of the foot race, Delke shot Hambrick three times in the back.

Delke has stated that his actions were in self-defense after he saw Hambrick carried a gun. Hambrick did not follow Delke’s commands to drop the weapon, and Delke opened fire. However, according to video surveillance from the area and other evidence obtained by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, it is alleged that it was not a clean shoot. Judge Melissa Blackburn, a General Sessions judge for Davidson County determined that Delke’s actions were inappropriate. She said that the victim’s behavior that day did not warrant lethal force being used.

Blackburn turned the case over to a grand jury who determined that lesser charges were not appropriate in this case. They felt the evidence from Delke’s actions showed premeditation and set the charge for first-degree murder.

Some are viewing the charge as “heavy,” pointing out that it us unusual for a lower charge to not be chosen in this kind of incident involving an officer. Previous federal prosecutor Alex Little proposed that the grand jury is sending the message that this is a case that needs a high level of scrutiny and attention. He also said that the heavier charge would make prosecuting the case more difficult as it sets a higher bar.

David Raybin, Delke’s lawyer, made a statement saying his client would, “continue to defend himself on the basis that he acted in accordance with his training and Tennessee law in response to an armed suspect who ignored repeated orders to drop his gun.”

Other sources, like the Fraternal Order of Police in Nashville, claim that this charge is motivated by politics. They believe the incident was handled properly and Delke was following proper procedure and training when he shot Hambrick. Their statement claims that his actions were not a crime and were the same as officers around America are trained to take.

On the other side, religious and activist organizations are championing the arrest and trial. Reverend James Turner II sees the case as a step closer to true justice. He sees the challenge ahead in convicting Delke, but is prepared to watch and wait as prosecutors take on the next obstacle.

Delke is still employed, but is on administrative leave until the investigation and trial have been completed. He will face arraignment in the case later in the month.

Young Girl Who Wrote About Gun Violence Dies in Random Shooting

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Sandra Parks wrote an essay about gun violence at the age of 11, titled Our Truth, for a writing contest. The essay spoke about the violence occurring in her neighborhood in Milwaukee. Tragically, two years later, at 13 years old, Sandra was killed by a bullet fired into her home.

In the essay, Sandra wrote: “We are in a state of chaos. In a city in which I live, I hear and see examples of chaos almost every day. Little children are victims of senseless gun violence.” She spoke of the bad choices and hatred of people, which leads to the violence she was exposed to in her community. She spoke of the depression she felt from black on black crime and how she tried to escape from it through music.

According to her mother, Bernice Parks, Sandra was alone in her bedroom on Monday. A stray bullet, apparently not fired at anyone specifically, was shot into the house and hit her in the chest. She died that night from her wounds. Bernice stated that she woke to the sound of gunfire around 8 p.m. She found her daughter on the floor, bleeding from her chest. Sandra told her mother, “Momma, I’m shot. Call the police.”

“I looked at her. She didn’t cry. She wasn’t hollering. She was just so peaceful… She didn’t deserve to leave this world like that,” her mother told reporters.

Two men were arrested in connection with the shooting. 26-year-old Isaac Barnes and 27-year-old Untrell Oden. The two were on their way home from the store and Barnes opened fire for no reason, and at no one.

An ex-girlfriend of Barnes directed police to look for them, as she believed Barnes was involved in the incident. She had seen Barnes earlier, saying he was armed with a rifle and wearing a mask. After a search in the neighborhood, police located the two men hidden in a house not far from the Parks residence. The found both an AK-47 rifle and handgun. The shell casings found near the Parks home were fired from the handgun.

Barnes has been charged with reckless homicide in the first degree, and both men face charges for possession of illegal firearms, as they are both convicted felons.

In a statement to reporters, Mayor Tom Barrett said, “Tragically, her death was caused by someone who just decided they were going to shoot bullets into her house, and she’s dead. A 13-year-old, on Thanksgiving week, on a school night, in her bedroom, and she died.” He expressed that they were unsure why Barnes decided to open fire. “All we know is that a 13-year-old died last night in her bedroom.”

Many friends, neighbors and relatives gathered at the Parks’ residence on Tuesday for a vigil and to offer prayers for Sandra. Sandra was an eighth grader with dreams of pursuing writing in college.

Community Thrown Into Turmoil After Mass Shooting at Jewish Synagogue

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On Saturday October 27th, the Tree of Life Synagogue was thrust into a nightmare when Robert Gregory Bowers entered the building and opened fire. He carried an AR-15, as well as three handguns. The shooting resulted in the deaths of 11 people and six others were wounded. The Anti-Defamation League described the incident as the worst attack against Jews in the history of the United States.

Police tracked Bowers down after and were forced into a shootout. Bowers received multiple gunshot wounds, but none were fatal. During the shootout, four officers were wounded. Bowers was heard saying, while receiving treatment for his wounds, that “Jews were committing genocide to his people and he wanted them all dead.”

As a result of the shooting, Bowers is being charged with 11 criminal homicide counts and multiple counts of ethnic intimidation and aggravated assault. Federal charges are being brought as well for hate crimes, weapon offenses and more. While the crime scene may take a full week to investigate and process, according to FBI Special Agent Robert Jones, Bowers is expected to appear in federal court on Monday the 29th.

Jones also said that it appears Bowers had no accomplices and that his home had been searched. No information about that search has been released at this time. At a news conference, Jones said, “This was a large, complex crime scene and much work remains to be done. We don’t know why he picked this synagogue.”

The Tree of Life Synagogue is located in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood, just outside of Pittsburgh. It is the center of Pittsburgh’s Jewish community.

After the shooting, President Trump put out a Presidential Order for all federal locations to fly flags at half-staff out of respect for the victims. The President’s declaration was explicit:

“I hereby order that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions until sunset, October 31, 2018.  I also direct that the flag shall be flown at half-staff for the same length of time at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations.”

At another news conference, Scott Brady, U.S. Attorney, said the shooting was “an unspeakable and hateful crime.” He also reiterated that Bowers had made statements about his dislike for Jewish people and the depth of his hatred for all of them.

Anthony Garcia Sentenced to Death for Killing Four People in Omaha

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In a tragic case that begins back in 2001, Anthony Garcia, 45, has received the death penalty for murdering four people. Garcia killed the four victims for revenge relating to his firing from Creighton University School of Medicine in Nebraska. A panel of three judges determined the sentence, after weighing it against life in prison.

The events following Garcia’s firing

Doctors William Hunter and Roger Brumback of Creighton’s residency program fired Garcia in 2001. It wasn’t until 2008 that Garcia lashed out for the first time. Authorities determined that Garcia was responsible for the stabbing of Thomas Hunter, 11, who was Dr. Hunter’s son. He also killed Shirlee Sherman, 57, housekeeper for the Hunters in Omaha.

However, though the killings were fully investigated, and substantial evidence was found, investigators were unable to lock down a suspect. For the next few years, the case went unsolved.

In 2013, on Mother’s Day, Dr. and Mary Brumback were found dead in their home. Omaha police investigated the deaths thoroughly. They realized the 2008 killings at Dr. Hunter’s home were similar. While Dr. Brumback was shot in his doorway, Mary was stabbed to death. Both Thomas and Shirlee were killed similarly in 2008.

By comparing the two cases and investigating deeper into Creighton, Garcia quickly became a suspect. Police arrested Garcia about two months later in Illinois.

Records of credit charges and phone usage show Garcia in Omaha the day of the killings. This and a preponderance of circumstantial evidence were produced by the prosecution. There was also evidence of another attack in Omaha the day of the killings. A faculty member from Creighton said Garcia tried to force his way through her back door. The home’s alarm system triggered and he fled. According to prosecutors, it was believed Garcia then sought out the Brumbacks and killed them.

Though the death penalty was given, it is not common in Nebraska. Until a month previously, with the execution of Carey Dean Moore, Nebraska hasn’t carried out an execution in over twenty years. The judges sentencing Garcia showed that it had been a fully deliberated sentence, as life in prison was an equal possibility.

Dr. Clair Hunter, Thomas’s mother, and Jeff Sherman, Shirlee’s son, were at the sentencing hearing. They both expressed the depth of their losses, and relief from the sentencing’s closure. Garcia’s family were also present. His brother Fernando spoke to reporters and expressed the family’s difficulty with understanding Garcia’s uncharacteristic actions. He also expressed sympathies for the victims’ families, hoping they find their peace.

The sentencing hearing was disrupted when Judge Gary Randall experienced a medical issue. Omaha emergency responders took Randall to a medical facility. Judge Rick Schreiner continued in Randall’s stead and explained Randall had suffered from back pain associated with an earlier medical procedure.

 

 

Murder-Suicide in Texas Leaves Five Dead Including Shooter

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Robstown, Texas has been rocked by a multi-victim shooting at two locations, Retama Manor nursing home and a private residence. The victims were family members of Richard Starry, the shooter. Police are actively investigating the July 27th shooting, with details continuing to come forward.

Details of the shootings

On Friday evening, police responded to an active shooter call at Retama Manor nursing home. When police arrived, they found three dead, one woman and two men. 60-year-old Starry was found dead, from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The other two fatalities were Starry’s father and stepmother, 85-year-old Earnest Starry and 60-year-old Thelma Montalvo.

Witnesses reported that Montalvo was visiting her husband, who was in residence at Retama Manor. Witness accounts and the motivation for the shooting have not been released. Police said it was too early in the investigation to make determinations or release detailed information.

Another visitor to the nursing home, Reuben Garcia, heard the shots fired. “I thought it was just a ladder that had fallen down, that’s what it sounded like to me. Then I heard somebody say run, run. So we ran.” Garcia recounted, explaining how he got his father out of the home.

While police were investigating the shooting scene, they received a call from a concerned family member directing them to the family home on State Highway 44. Police went to the Starry/Montalvo residence and found two more victims. 13-year-old Isaiah Starry, Earnest and Thelma’s adopted son, and Roel Mireles, Montalvo’s 41-year-old son, were both found dead at the scene. Both had been shot, presumably by Richard Starry.

Richard Starry has had minor legal trouble in the past, having been arrested in 2017 on theft of property charge. His last given address was the residence on State Highway 44, where Isaiah and Roel were found dead. He also co-owned various properties in the area, Earnest Starry being the other co-owner.

Details and information about Starry’s relationship with his relatives has not been learned. Nor has the Nueces County Medical Examiner released any details about the nature of the shootings. Chief of Police Erasmo Flores spoke to press saying investigators were being diligent in their pursuit for answers about this shooting.

Robstown police expect assistance with the investigation from the Texas Rangers. Governor Greg Abbott’s office and city officials will offer grief counselors through the Texas Department of Public Safety for those in need at the nursing home. Visitors and residents alike were equally traumatized by the incident.

 

Week of Terror Ends with Capture of “Mattress Store Killer”

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Houston police succeeded in ending a killing spree that resulted in the deaths of at least three victims. Jose Gilberto Rodriguez, 46-years-old, was captured on Tuesday following a short car chase. Rodriguez is being charged with the deaths of two people, with plans to charge him in the death of a third individual.

Details of the Crime Spree

Beginning July 9th, Jose Rodriguez began his crime spree with a home invasion and robbery. Within a few days, another home invasion resulted in the death of Pamela Johnson, 62. Johnson had been killed in her Cypress home and was discovered by police after a concerned call from her brother.

Police determined that Rodriguez stole Pamela Johnson’s vehicle and parked it at Willowbrook Mall. Rodriguez was seen later that day in the Mall via security video on Saturday. 28-year-old Allie Barrow was the manager of the Mattress Firm, located across the street from Willowbrook Mall. She was found killed by a gunshot wound on the same day Rodriguez was seen passing through the mall.

Two days later, Rodriguez’s crimes continued, when a Metro Lift driver was wounded by a gunshot from Rodriguez on Monday. Police also discovered another victim, killed by gunshot wounds, in a local Mattress One store.

Rodriguez’s History and Capture

Based on investigations, the motivation in these incidents appears to be money. Why any of the robberies escalated to murder is unclear at this time. Rodriguez is a known gang member and is also a convicted sex offender. His criminal history dates back to 1989. He was currently on parole, but had removed his monitor before embarking on the week of terror.

Police were alerted to Rodriguez’s location Tuesday, after he was observed in a local neighborhood. He was knocking on doors and trying to engage residents. Police suspect that Rodriguez was looking for his next robbery target and potential victims.

Rodriguez was captured on Tuesday. Police tracked him via eyewitness reports, which led to the pursuit of Rodriguez in the stolen vehicle. Fortunately, the apprehension occurred with no violence, in what the police called a “very professional takedown.”

Rodriguez will be charged with two counts of capital murder, with a third capital murder charge expected. He will also face counts for home invasion, robbery, aggravated robbery and grand theft. Authorities were pleased that Rodriguez was finally captured; the killing spree might have continued as Rodriguez was searching for more targets/victims. His capture is the result of diligent citizen involvement in the search for Rodriguez.

2-year-old, father dead in murder-suicide

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A father suspected of abducting his 2-year-old son and fleeing Long Island for Virginia have been found dead in a murder-suicide following a bitter custody fight. During the ordeal, authorities refused to issue an Amber Alert and waited over six hours to inform the public and solicit their help.

The bodies, identified by Rockbridge County sheriff’s deputies, match the identities of John and Jovani Ligurgo. They were found in a Jeep Grand Cherokee that had been set alight behind a residence. Suffolk County police have not confirmed the identity or either Jovani or his father John.

Ligurgo, 43, took Jovani and fled Long Island Tuesday after starting a fire in the bedroom of his condo, according to police. Maria Busone, Jovani’s mother, alerted police when Ligurgo did not show up to return Jovani to her home as required by a court-ordered visitation order. Four hours later, Ligurgo’s Jeep was seen crossing the George Washington Bridge into New Jersey.

The pair were discovered in Raphine, central Virginia, around 8:45 a.m. local time Wednesday. Firefighters were alerted to a burning vehicle, and sheriff’s deputies ran the license plate through a recognition database, which was matched to an advisory sent to local law enforcement. Ligurgo did not have any apparently connections in Raphine or the area in general. “It’s like a nightmare. It’s heartbreaking.

This poor baby hasn’t even gotten a chance to live.” said Jovani’s aunt, Jackie Pulizzi, to press at the scene. She described how Jovani was just starting to talk, and what kind of cartoons he liked. “PJ Masks” and “Wallykazam” were his favorites, when he wasn’t playing with his cousins or his 26-year-old half-brother, who cried when the bodies were discovered.

Pulizzi, Busone’s sister, said Busone was in the process of petitioning for full custody of Jovani. She wanted Ligurgo to be drug tested and undergo a psychological exam as conditions of his visitation. A hearing was scheduled only a day after Ligurgo killed Jovani and himself. Busone filed the petition when deciding to end the “toxic” relationship between her and Ligurgo after three years.

Ligurgo was recently fired from his job for smoking marijuana at work, and was described as selfish, abusive, and controlling towards Busone. Her family feared for their safety. “He was not interested in working anything out,” Pulizzi said. “His thought process was, ‘If I can’t have him, nobody can.’ No man of rational thinking does that.”

Suffolk County police requested that state authorities issue an Amber Alert after Jovani’s abduction, but a state police spokesperson said information provided at the time failed to meet the criteria for an alert. Amber Alerts are only issued if a child is in danger of serious bodily harm or death, and Ligurgo’s clean record and lack of documented history of violence failed to meet that threshold. Jovani’s family said Ligurgo’s unstable behavior should have been reason enough.

Instead, Suffolk Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said the department issued an advisory including descriptions of Jovani, Ligurgo, and the Jeep to a national alert system. Police began investigating the case as a missing person’s inquiry after they had connected Jovani’s disappearance to the fire, and waited a day later to inform the public. “We were gathering the facts of the case, we were reaching out to our law enforcement partners and then the determination was made to reach out to the media,” Hart said.

“The totality of the circumstances indicated this could be serious,” Suffolk County Chief of Detectives Gerard Gigante told the press. “He could have turned up in a hotel room and drove back today, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case.”

Grand Forks Woman Kills Family With Gun Purchased Weeks Before

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Astra Volk seemed like an average with her son customer at Grand Forks’ Super Pawn, recounts store manager Michael Stamper, who saw Volk in early May. She wanted to purchase a handgun for personal and home defense, prompted by a series of recent break-ins around town. Stamper noted that Volk did not seem upset or acted in any way but normal, and her background check returned within minutes with an all-clear to buy the gun.

“She was in here with her son, and they were kind of joking back and forth,” Stamper said. “While she was filling it out (the paperwork), I was kind of chatting with her kid, kind of joking back and forth. They were talking about going to CherryBerry afterwards, and he actually invited me.”

Volk decided on purchasing a SIG Sauer Mosquito, a small .22 LR pistol popular with women. Stamper said he demonstrated how to properly handle the firearm, including how to load and unload the magazine and which specifications of ammunition were used with the gun.

Volk used the handgun no more than a day after purchase to kill her children – Arianna Talmage, 6, Aidan Talmage, 10, and Tyler Talmage, 14 – before committing suicide, according to Grand Forks Police Lt. Derik Zimmel. Their bodies were discovered on May 3rd following a welfare check at their home in Grand Forks. The Grand Forks Police Department has ruled the case a triple-murder suicide, but the case remains under current investigation. The handgun sold to Volk is the only weapons recovered from the crime scene, Lt. Brett Johnson said. It is not apparent if Volk owned other firearms.

Volk previously discussed her struggles with mental illness before her death, and family members disclosed that she previously attempted suicide. However, there were no legal barriers to Volk obtaining a firearm, Zimmel said. Super Pawn conducted a proper background check with the FBI and cleared the gun purchase, according to police. “Every indication was that was completed legally and to standard,” Zimmel said.

Volk had most recently attempted suicide earlier this year, according to her mother. In 2014, police intervened when Volk’s ex-husband reported she was planning to commit suicide, according to an incident report from the Grand Forks Police Department. A week before the killings, Volk solicited financial help through the donor website GoFundMe to cover medical expenses related to her mental illness.

Anyone looking to purchase a gun in North Dakota must present a state ID, like a driver’s license, be at least 21 years old, and undergo a federal background check. Federal law requires firearm vendors to conduct national background checks, but North Dakota does not pose any addition restrictions or requirements during the purchasing process. Pawnshops must follow the same regulations if they sell firearms, according to Seth Dye, owner of Pawn Pros in Fargo. “If a customer comes to retrieve a gun after pawning it, another background check must be conducted to make sure he is eligible to receive the firearm.” he said.

The background check includes a short form to determine eligibility to own a gun, like whether the person is a convicted felon, using illegal drugs, or if a court has ruled a buyer “mentally defective”. This information is sent to the FBI, who cross-references the customer’s record with a federal database. These checks take several minutes to complete if a buyer’s record is clear and has proper ID, although delays can occur if a buyer has a common name or an unobtainable criminal history.