MILWAUKEE — Warning signs seemed to be present when 45-year-old Radcliffe Haughton created a posting on the website ArmsList.com looking to buy a gun from a private seller on Saturday, October 20th — one day before he entered the Azana Salon & Spa in Brookfield and opened fire, killing three (including his wife) and injuring four before turning the gun on himself. However, a private citizen sold Haughton a gun anyway.
The Wisconsin Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms traced more than 3,200 guns in Wisconsin last year — traces to help law enforcement officials solve crimes. An ATF spokesman says tracing these weapons is a harder task when private citizens sell to people they don’t know and don’t keep records.
ArmsList.com allows gun buyers to find private sellers, meet and buy and sell guns with no record check, background check or waiting period.
The Coalition of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which has investigated the website, says it cannot legally release information about its gun trace in the Brookfield shooting, but FOX6 News found the only ad posted on the site Saturday that references a gun like the one Haughton used.
The posting is from Milwaukee and reads: “Looking to buy ASAP. Prefer full size, any caliber. Email ASAP. I constantly check my emails. Hoping it has a high mag capacity with the handgun, ammo, accessories. I am a serious buyer. Email me ASAP. Have cash now and looking to buy now. I am mobile.”
Gun and security expert Pablo Valasquez told FOX6 News no responsible gun seller should have sold a gun to the person who made this posting.
“There are several red flags here. Stay away from this. You don’t want to sell to this person. There’s a high urgency to have this firearm. The fact that he’ll take any firearm and he’s not looking for a particular firearm to add to his collection simply states ‘I need a firearm and I need it now.’ All these things are red flags not to sell to this person,” Valasquez said.
Valasquez says if the sale was legal, it was still not responsible.
“He also indicates that he’s mobile so he can meet you anywhere to pick this up. I wouldn’t sell to a person if I received this kind of information or email. I definitely wouldn’t sell to this person,” Valasquez said.
Valasquez said he recommends private sellers do background checks or go through a licensed dealer to sell guns to make sure they are never part of something like what happened Sunday.
Mayor Barrett has called for stronger gun laws in the wake of Sunday’s shooting. He wants the state to pass legislation that would force private gun sales to go through a dealer. This would force the buyer to abide by a mandatory waiting period, and go through a background check — so people like Radcliffe Haughton won’t be able to buy a gun ASAP.
“It is deeply disturbing to learn how easily Radcliffe Haughton was able to obtain a gun even though he was prohibited from having a weapon. I’ve been calling for this change for years. How many more times are we going to have the discussion after a tragedy where politicians are lined up to say they are shocked and sorry? Sadly, it is no longer shocking. It’s time for action. The fact is, had a background check been required on this sale, Mr. Haughton may not have been able to obtain the gun he used to murder his wife and her co-workers,” Mayor Barrett said.
Wisconsin state Representative Jeff Stone doesn’t agree. Rep. Stone says forcing private sellers to go through a dealer and run background checks isn’t the right solution because of the rights guaranteed by our Constitution. However, he says he would consider ideas that could make people safer.
“I just don’t know that we believe that another law is going to stop somebody who’s shown a willingness to violate the law. Obviously this was somebody who wasn’t acting in a reasonable or sane manner,” Rep. Stone said.
Rep. Stone said he believes the current laws are enough.
“What we need is we need to have enforcement of many of the laws that we already have,” Rep. Stone said.
Mayor Barrett said because of inaction by elected officials, people can take this matter into their own hands by contacting their representatives or even putting a referendum on the ballot to close this loophole.
“This is a simple and common sense change to our state statutes that had it been in place, could possibly have prevented this tragedy,” Mayor Barrett said.
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