The man who shot Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) at a baseball practice likely used a semi-automatic rifle not banned by law, McClatchy Newspapers reports. Federal and Virginia laws do not prohibit the possession of semi-automatic rifles if they are used for lawful purposes, including hunting. A congressional ban on certain types of rifles expired in 2004 after 10 years. Virginia allows carrying a loaded semi-automatic rifle equipped with a magazine that will hold more than 20 rounds of ammunition in certain public locations, but a permit is required. Witnesses described the gun as a long rifle, possibly an AR-15 or AK-47, which are often called assault weapons, a term gun-rights groups oppose in favor of semi-automatic rifles. Witnesses also described a second weapon as a handgun, allowable under federal and state law, though they are banned in certain locations, including near schools.
Shooter James Hodgkinson had several encounters with police in Illinois, including accusations of domestic abuse, drunken driving and shooting in the woods near his home with a 12-gauge shotgun. It’s unclear where Hodgkinson, who had been living in Alexandria, Va., recently, bought the gun. He had a valid Firearm Owner’s ID, allowing him to purchase a gun in Illinois, meaning he underwent a background check. Virginia does not require a similar permit for purchase, only for carrying a concealed weapon. If he bought the guns, his name was likely run through a database designed to prevent those who are barred from owning guns to buy one. Yet the National Instant Criminal Background Check System is missing millions of mental-health and drug-abuse records. “It is not about keeping certain guns out of all hands; it’s about keeping all guns out of certain, dangerous hands,” said Dan Gross of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.