No Existing Laws Would Have Disarmed Synagogue Attacker

The ATF says the accused Pittsburgh synagogue gunman legally acquired and possessed his 11 guns. A local law that would have outlawed his AR-15 rifle was repealed years ago, and a red-flag law debated in the state legislature this year went nowhere.

The accused synagogue gunman, Robert Bowers, legally purchased the four guns — an AR-15 assault rifle and three Glock .357 handguns — he allegedly used in his shooting spree in Pittsburgh on Saturday morning, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. Bowers had a handgun license and did not fall into any category barred from gun ownership under federal law, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The ATF found that Bowers owned 10 guns in total, all purchased and possessed legally: the four found at the synagogue; three handguns and two rifles recovered from his residence; and a shotgun recovered from his car outside the synagogue.

In 1993, the city councils of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia banned assault weapons within their city limits. But state legislators responded by passing a law that effectively repealed the ordinances. A push this year in Pennsylvania to pass a so-called red flag law that would allow the police or relatives to petition a judge to temporarily take weapons away from people who appear to be a threat to themselves or others, even if they have not been adjudicated mentally ill, stalled in the legislature. It is unclear whether any family members or law enforcement were aware of Bowers’ anti-Semitic screeds on social media or his weapons.