KANSAS CITY, Mo. — As a felon, F. Glenn Miller Jr. had no legal right to a gun.
What’s more, a gun dealer would face prison time for selling him a weapon.
Even a friend who gave or sold him guns would risk federal prison time for arming someone they knew or suspected was a felon.
Yet the proud racist and anti-Semite stands accused of firing a shotgun and a handgun in the murder of three people at Jewish facilities in Overland Park last weekend.
So who put his finger on a trigger?
Investigators tracing the source of the guns allegedly used by the felon think he was aided by a straw buyer who could clear background checks likely to foil Miller, said a law enforcement official familiar with the case.
The law enforcement source, who insisted upon anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, said local police and agents from the FBI and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives are trying to locate the middleman.
Such a gun-buying go-between represents a vexing problem for keeping firearms out of the hands of people like Miller who lost their Second Amendment rights when they became felons.
Gun rights advocates blame lax enforcement, not firearms law, for the problem. After all, investigators are pursuing a lead on what would already be a federal felony.
“Most criminals obtain guns from theft, the black market, or ‘straw purchasers,'” says the National Rifle Association.
Promoters of stricter gun control see straw buys as symptomatic of regulations that fail to keep guns away from criminals. Under existing federal law, they say, prosecutors find it difficult to prove that a buyer necessarily knew a weapon was headed to a felon.
“It’s extremely hard to prove they lied about their intent when they bought the gun,” said Kristen Rand, a lobbyist for the Violence Policy Center, which supports stricter gun sale rules.
The person who bought the guns intended for Miller purchased them from a licensed merchant, the law enforcement official said. The source declined to say whether authorities have identified the merchant or determined when the firearms were bought.
A straw buyer breaks the law by lying on the ATF’s Form 4473 that asks about the identity of the true purchaser. (“Are you the actual transferee/buyer of the firearm(s) listed on this form?”) False statements on the form carry a fine of up to $250,000 and a prison term up to 10 years.