Texas Man Pleads Guilty in Gun Sale to Mass Shooter.

Oct 08 2020

Originally written for the Wall Street Journal by Dan Frosch and Zusha Elinson

"A Texas man who frequently sold firearms online pleaded guilty to illegally selling an AR-15-style rifle to Seth Ator, who used it to kill seven people and wound 25 in a 2019 mass shooting.

The plea agreement, filed in federal court in Lubbock, Texas, on Wednesday, is a sign of increased scrutiny of private gun sales, including those conducted online. Such transactions have proven challenging for authorities to regulate in recent years.

Ator, who was shot and killed by police after a shooting rampage in West Texas, had been deemed by a court to be mentally unfit to own firearms before purchasing the weapon from Marcus Braziel.

Mr. Braziel admitted that he sold numerous guns without a firearm dealer’s license online, according to his plea agreement. Several of the people who purchased firearms from him had been barred from buying guns.

Investigators say they don’t exactly know how Ator first found Mr. Braziel, but that Mr. Braziel typically posted ads for the guns on websites including Armslist.com and then arranged to meet with the buyers in person to complete the sale.

Ator tried unsuccessfully to buy a gun in 2014 but was flagged by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, law-enforcement officials said last year. He eventually turned to Mr. Braziel in 2016, court documents show.

Federal law doesn’t require background checks for private gun sales between individuals, though 22 states now require checks for at least some private sales.

Mr. Braziel faces up to five years in prison. A lawyer representing him declined to comment.

Prosecutors charged Mr. Braziel with selling guns without a license. Under federal law, individuals “in the business” of dealing or manufacturing firearms must get a license. There is no legal threshold for the number of guns sold that determines whether an individual is in the business or not, so authorities look at factors including how frequently they sell guns and how much money they earn.

According to the plea agreement, Mr. Braziel initially told law enforcement that he was selling guns as a hobby. But the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives determined he had sold around 70 guns, mostly through websites, over several years. Authorities said there was no evidence Mr. Braziel knew any of the buyers, including Ator, were barred from owning firearms.

Ator tried unsuccessfully to buy a gun in 2014 but was flagged by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, law-enforcement officials said last year. He eventually turned to Mr. Braziel in 2016, court documents show.

Federal law doesn’t require background checks for private gun sales between individuals, though 22 states now require checks for at least some private sales.

Mr. Braziel faces up to five years in prison. A lawyer representing him declined to comment.

Prosecutors charged Mr. Braziel with selling guns without a license. Under federal law, individuals “in the business” of dealing or manufacturing firearms must get a license. There is no legal threshold for the number of guns sold that determines whether an individual is in the business or not, so authorities look at factors including how frequently they sell guns and how much money they earn.

According to the plea agreement, Mr. Braziel initially told law enforcement that he was selling guns as a hobby. But the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives determined he had sold around 70 guns, mostly through websites, over several years. Authorities said there was no evidence Mr. Braziel knew any of the buyers, including Ator, were barred from owning firearms.

Ator tried unsuccessfully to buy a gun in 2014 but was flagged by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, law-enforcement officials said last year. He eventually turned to Mr. Braziel in 2016, court documents show.

Federal law doesn’t require background checks for private gun sales between individuals, though 22 states now require checks for at least some private sales.

Mr. Braziel faces up to five years in prison. A lawyer representing him declined to comment.

Prosecutors charged Mr. Braziel with selling guns without a license. Under federal law, individuals “in the business” of dealing or manufacturing firearms must get a license. There is no legal threshold for the number of guns sold that determines whether an individual is in the business or not, so authorities look at factors including how frequently they sell guns and how much money they earn.

According to the plea agreement, Mr. Braziel initially told law enforcement that he was selling guns as a hobby. But the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives determined he had sold around 70 guns, mostly through websites, over several years. Authorities said there was no evidence Mr. Braziel knew any of the buyers, including Ator, were barred from owning firearms."

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