The Corner

No, Alexis Did Not Try to Buy an AR-15

In the Washington Times, Emily Miller debunks the newest lie about the AR-15: that Aaron Alexis tried to buy one in Virginia but was prevented from doing so by a state law prohibiting out-of-staters from purchasing “assault” rifles. The New York Times claimed yesterday:

WASHINGTON — The suspect in the killing of 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard on Monday test-fired an AR-15 assault rifle at a Virginia gun store last week but was stopped from buying one because state law there prohibits the sale of such weapons to out-of-state buyers, according to two senior law enforcement officials.

Instead, the suspect, Aaron Alexis of Texas, bought a law-enforcement-style shotgun — an 870 Remington pump-action — and used it on Monday as he rampaged through the navy yard, said the officials, who requested anonymity because the investigation was continuing.

This is false. Miller correctly notes that:

Apparently neither the reporter nor his editors took the time to fact check their vague “law enforcement officials” sources. 

“Virginia law does not prohibit the sale of assault rifles to out-of-state citizens who have proper identification,” Dan Peterson, a Virginia firearms attorney, told me Tuesday night. The required identification is proof of residency in another state and of U.S. citizenship, which can be items like a passport, birth certificate or voter identification card. 

The Commonwealth defines “assault firearm” as any semiautomatic centerfire rifle or pistol with a magazine which will hold more than 20 rounds or can accommodate a silencer or is equipped with a folding stock. 

John Frazer, also a firearms attorney in the Commonwealth, told me that, “State law in Virginia — like most states — allows purchase of rifles or shotguns by residents of other states. Virginia simply requires some additional forms of identification.”

Federal law is clear on this residency issue. A quick glance at the ATF website would have informed the New York Times journalists that a person may buy a rifle or shotgun, in person, at a federal firearms licensee’s premises in any state, provided the sale complies with state laws, which it would in this case.

Indeed, “a quick glance” would. But learning about firearms is terribly gauche, and far less effective than a hunch that an AR-15 just has to have been involved somehow. Far be it from me to offer any advice to those on the other side of this issue, but I will say this: The steadfast refusal of the Left to learn anything about a subject with which it is obsessed is not just embarrassing, but it is hurting their cause.

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