Monday, November 18, 2002

The story of John Muhammad's guns should be relatively simple, but it's not:

  1. I have already referred to problems with the original story, a story which was quickly scrubbed from the internet. The original story identified the Bushmaster rifle with a specific serial number, a serial number of a gun that Muhammad had owned but which he no longer owned. This was either an odd mistake or a hint of something more sinister.

  2. The second version of the story was simply to remove reference to the serial number.

  3. The third version of the story is just an elaboration of the same mistake, and states that Muhammad bought the gun from a gun shop called 'Welcher's Gun Shop' (note this article, which expressly states that it has been corrected, presumably to remove the confusion of the two guns, but still manages to confuse them). Muhammad passed the background check at the time of the purchase of this rifle. What is said to have happened is that Muhammad then sold the gun back to the same gun shop, which then sold it to another customer who still has it. It is even possible that Muhammad sold the gun back because he was not supposed to possess a weapon under the terms of the restraining order that his wife had obtained against him. Oddly, it appears that the arrest warrant that was used against Muhammad was based on his possession of this rifle, even though it was clear that Muhammad no longer owned the rifle and a lawyer should be able to make the argument that it is a bit much to arrest the guy on the basis of evidence obtained because Muhammad was complying with the restraining order by selling the rifle (although to be fair the affidavit also refers to the testimony of Mr. Holmes regarding what may be another rifle). Since he wasn't at the hearing when the restraining order was issued, it is possible that his sale of the rifle was his attempt to comply with the restraining order as quickly as possible. The whole arrest warrant situation requires more investigation.

  4. The fourth version of the story was that Muhammad bought the gun from a gun shop called Bull's Eye Shooter Supply in Tacoma, Washington. The gun in question is supposed to have arrived at the shop from the factory on June 2, after which all record of it apparently disappears. The gun was no longer in the shop, but a search revealed that the box for the gun was still there, and the shop had it listed in its inventory. The only problem with this version is that the gun shop in question has no record of having sold the gun to Mr. Muhammad. In fact, it turns out that they have no record of up to 340 guns that are alleged to have gone through that shop in recent months, and there was another incident two years previously where an additional 150 guns were not accounted for by the proper paperwork and background checks. Did this previously reputable gun shop decide to just up and take a couple months off from complying with the law? Very unlikely. So what is going on here? I can only guess, but I imagine these two groups of guns never in fact arrived at the shop. What this looks like is gun running, whereby large groups of guns are falsely routed through a reputable gun shop, which probably had no idea it was being so used, for the purposes of organized crime or some intelligence agency. The guns are shipped to what appears to be a reputable address, thus allowing the manufacturer to comply with its duties, but mysteriously never arrive at their destination (it will be very telling if the investigation leads to no punishment, or a nominal punishment, for the gun shop). Bushmaster claims that it shipped the gun to a 'distributor' in Washington, which is completely ambiguous (one article said the gun arrived at the gun shop "from the factory", but another article refers to the distributor as if it were a wholesaler). If there was a third-party wholesaler, I'd be very interested in knowing what its background is. Bushmaster is owned by a man who, coincidentally, is a big financial supporter of George Bush and had for a time in 1999 been Bush's chief find-raiser in Maine (what a small world it is). George Bush just happened to benefit from the shooting in that it possibly scared the Senate, already threatened by the anthrax attacks, to clearly support the resolution on the war on Iraq (remember the shootings started when the Iraq war was being discussed, and one day after Ari Fleischer stated that the problem in Iraq could be solved by one bullet), and it continued the climate of fear in the United States which helped the Republicans to their great mid-term election victory. I note that such worthies as James Earl Ray and Jack Ruby were involved in gun running, people who may have been associated with the JFK assassination may have also been involved in the theft of military supplies from the U. S. army in Louisiana, and some people believe that Lee Harvey Oswald may have ordered his famous Mannlicher-Carcano rifle as part of an undercover investigation for some U. S. government agency on the shipment of guns by mail. If Muhammad's gun was part of a shipment of untraceable guns, how did he get it? Remember, he always seemed to have lots of guns despite the fact that he did not obviously always have an obvious source of money, and he told someone in Baton Rouge he was working for "a secret Special Forces unit that included military retirees and was tracking 500 pounds of explosives that had been stolen from the military and brought to Louisiana." While this seems wildly improbable, it is exactly the sort of thing that might be told to a gullible and patriotic man to get him to travel accross the United States at the control of some sinister agent. Was Muhammad involved in some sort of gun running scheme, or in what he felt was the investigation of gun runners? If so, who was he really working for? If he didn't obtain the gun, how did it end up shooting someone in Montgomery, how did it end up shooting people in Maryland and Virginia, and how did it end up behind the rear seat of his car?

  5. One of the first reports on the capture of Muhammad and Malvo stated that there was no gun found in the car: "A federal search warrant was being sought, but one official told CNN no weapon was found in a preliminary check of the car." A tripod was found in the trunk, but the gun was described as being found in the car, meaning that they would presumably not need to look in the trunk to find the gun. On top of that, it isn't even clear that they needed a warrant to search the car, as they had probable cause for such a search due to Muhammad's previous possession of a gun while a spousal restraining order was in force. In any event, perhaps just to be safe, they went to obtain a search warrant (here is the application to obtain the warrant not in the pdf format). It is also possible that the original reason for the arrest was based on the mistaken assumption that Muhammad still had the original Bushmaster he had sold, and the confusion meant that there was no probable cause to search the car - of course, it is also possible that the police knew that when they obtained the original warrant. As the police had the excuse that they could not search at least the trunk without a warrant, they had the ability to remove the car from the scene of the arrest and later search it at their leisure (of course, out of the sight of any witnesses). The rifle was said to be found behind the rear seat of the car (is that another way of saying in the trunk?). Or was it actually found behind the front seat, in which case it would have been in plain view?

  6. The witnesses to the shooting in Montgomery, Alabama saw Muhammad and Malvo use only hand guns, but the two were tied to the shooting by the ballistics of the Bushmaster rifle. This has put the authorities in the interesting position of having to allege that Muhammad and Malvo must have had an accomplice in Montgomery who fired the shot from the rifle. This is very odd, as the two apparently moved very quickly from Baton Rouge up to Maryland, and no one has ever seen them with anyone else. The Montgomery Police Chief, in referring to the killing, said: "Just at the time you figure it out, it grows another leg."

  7. The police have now managed to tie Muhammad and Malvo into numerous killings and shootings in various ways. Of course, all these connections depend on the gun and other items being found in the car.

  8. Only Malvo's fingerprints were found on the rifle. Police interrogated Malvo for nearly eight hours without giving him access to an attorney, and apparently obtained lots of inculpatory testimony. It is quite possible that Malvo was told by the police that he, as a minor, would obtain relatively lenient treatment for his crimes, but that his friend Muhammad would fry for them. Do you think it is possible that Malvo 'confessed' based on this type of misleading by the police in order to save his friend? Could his fingerprints have ended up on the rifle as part of this deception?