april - Handgun History

Each month, this section features prominent incidents of violence in the history of America involving handguns and shooters, ranging from school-aged children to disgruntled employees to lone-wolf assassins, acting out of a wide range of motives. Each month's incidents will include details such as: the identity of the shooter; the number of people killed and wounded; the make, model, and caliber of the handgun(s) used in the shooting; the circumstances of the shooting; and, how the handgun was acquired.
  • On April 3, 1995, James Daniel Simpson entered his former workplace, the Walter Rossler Company in Corpus Christie, Texas, and systematically shot five employees at point-blank range before shooting himself in the head. Simpson had worked as a metallurgist at the company for a year before quitting in 1994. According to police, Simpson's motive was depression. Police would not release any information about the firearms, but confirmed that the Ruger 9mm pistol and .32 revolver had been purchased legally. Simpson had no criminal record or history of mental illness that would have prevented him from owning firearms. 

  • From April 27 through July 15, 1997, Andrew Philip Cunanan roamed through Minnesota, Illinois, New York and Florida, running from the police. During these months he killed five people with a Taurus .40 pistol, including designer Gianni Versace, before killing himself. Police characterized Cunanan's activities as a "killing spree," and his motives remain unknown. The handgun was stolen from Cunanan's first murder victim, Jeff Trail. 
  • On April 15, 1999, Sergei Babarin entered the LDS Church Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, armed with a Ruger .22 pistol. Babarin allegedly shot six people—killing two—before being killed by police. Although there was no apparent motive, Babarin had a history of depression and dementia. The handgun was legally purchased at a gun store. Babarin was on probation for misdemeanor weapons charges, but under federal law the crime is not a prohibited category for gun ownership. Babarin also had a history of mental illness, including paranoid schizophrenia, but had never been involuntarily committed by a court, so his purchase was legal. 

  • On April 20, 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold walked through Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, shooting at students and teachers, killing 12 students and one teacher and wounding 23, before killing themselves. In addition to their firearms, which included an Intratec TEC-DC9 assault pistol and a Hi-Point 9mm Carbine, the boys scattered several explosive devices throughout the school. Robyn Anderson, a friend of Klebold and Harris, bought several of the weapons at the Tanner Gun Show in December 1998 from unlicensed sellers. Because Anderson bought the guns for someone else, the transition constituted an illegal "straw purchase." Klebold and Harris bought the TEC-DC9 from a pizza shop employee named Mark Manes. Manes, who knew the boys were too young to purchase the assault weapon, sold it to them for $500. 
  • On April 24, 2000, a fight broke out between two groups of teenagers leaving the National Zoo's African-American Family Celebration Night and Antoine Jones fired a 9mm pistol, wounding seven. Jones was sentenced to 25 years in prison without the opportunity for parole plus five years probation. The pistol was never recovered, but police did collect 9mm shell casings at the scene and ammunition at the home of Jones' grandparents. It is unclear how Jones acquired the firearm, but due to his age and Washington, D.C.'s strict gun laws, the gun was most likely obtained illegally. 

  • On April 28, 2000, Richard Baumhammers, an immigration lawyer, allegedly went on a shooting spree through the suburbs of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, killing five people—a Jewish woman, a black man, and natives of China, Vietnam, and India—and wounding one from India. The shootings took place over a span of less than two hours and in an area of 15 miles. Baumhammers was charged with five counts of homicide and ethnic intimidation, which is Pennsylvania's term for a hate crime. Baumhammers' Smith & Wesson .357 revolver was purchased legally from Ace Sporting Goods in Washington, Pennsylvania. Baumhammers had a history of mental illness, but had never been involuntarily committed to a mental hospital.