Magazine article Newsweek

Follow the Firearms

Magazine article Newsweek

Follow the Firearms

Article excerpt

If nothing else, the continuing effort to trace the guns used in the Columbine High School massacre shows how gun control works in the real world--which is to say, it doesn't. Under Colorado law, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were entitled to own rifles and shotguns but were too young to buy them. No problem: according to investigators, they had 18-year-old friend Robyn Anderson do the buying, and she got two shotguns and a 9-mm Hi-Point carbine for them. Their other weapon was a spooky-looking pistol whose predecessor, the TEC-9, was banned in 1994. Under state and federal law, Harris and Klebold were too young to buy or own any kind of handgun, which means that whoever sold the TEC-DC9 to them could face prosecution. The penalty for selling a handgun to a minor under Colorado law is two to six years in prison; to the Feds, it's only a misdemeanor.

The slowly unfolding history of these four weapons is a case study of just how porous America's gun laws can be. All four showed up in manufacturing records kept by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and ATF agents were able to follow the TEC-DC9 pistol and the Hi-Point carbine to gun dealers in the Denver area. The two shotguns, both 30 years old, had no useful paper trail, and dealer records did not show who bought the carbine or the TEC-9. But investigators in Denver had leads suggesting the four guns had something in common: the Tanner Gun Show, an event that fills the Denver Merchandise Mart nine times a year.

Like gun shows elsewhere--there are more than 4,000 a year in the United States- -the Tanner show is neither sinister nor illegal. But gun-control advocates say this is where regulations like the Brady bill and the federal ban on assault weapons break down. Brady requires licensed gun dealers to check buyers' backgrounds and reject convicted felons. …

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