The Slatest

Synagogue Shooting Suspect Was Able to Amass His Arsenal Legally

Emergency responders outside Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.
A Jewish emergency crew and police officers at the site of the mass shooting that killed 11 people and wounded six at the Tree Of Life Synagogue on Sunday in Pittsburgh.
Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

Pittsburgh synagogue shooting suspect Robert Bowers was able to buy the AR-15 rifle and three handguns used in the attack legally, according to federal authorities who spoke with the New York Times.

He also had six additional guns at home—three more handguns, a shotgun, and two other rifles—all purchased and owned legally, along with a license to own handguns.

Bowers was able to assemble his arsenal because he “did not fall into any category barred from gun ownership under federal law, including felons, convicted domestic abusers, dishonorably discharged veterans, or people adjudicated to be mentally ill or subject to certain restraining orders,” according to the Times. And while the city of Pittsburgh passed an assault rifle ban 25 years ago, Pennsylvania laws have superseded it, effectively making the guns legal to buy and own across the state.

Pennsylvania is also not a state that has a “red flag” law, which empowers police to confiscate guns temporarily if they find that a gun owner is likely harm themselves or others. Although a red flag bill was introduced in the Legislature this year by a Pennsylvania Republican and was partially drafted in consultation with the National Rifle Association, the bill never passed, thanks in part to NRA opposition.