july - 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 July 1, 1993, Gian Luigi Ferri, a 55-year-old mortgage broker, entered the Pettit & Martin law offices in San Francisco and opened fire with two Intratec TEC-DC9 assault pistols and a Colt .45 pistol. Ferri killied eight and wounded six before turning the gun on himself. Moving through the office, he fired the assault pistols—which were loaded with a mix of Black Talon and standard ammunition. Ferri ended the lives of some of the wounded with Black Talon rounds from his Colt pistol. Faced with financial problems, Ferri held a grudge against Pettit & Martin because the firm had represented him in a 1980s trailer-park deal that had gone bad. All three weapons were acquired from licensed dealers by illegal means. A California resident with a still-valid Nevada driver's license, Ferri traveled from California to Nevada to buy the TEC-DC9s. Because he lied about his residency, the handguns were purchased illegally. Both of Ferri's TEC-DC9s were equipped with Hellfire trigger activators, a small spring device which mimics the speed of fully-automatic fire. 

  • On July 2, 1881, President James Garfield was wounded by an assassin while waiting for a train in Washington's Baltimore and Potomac Railroad Station. He was nursed at the White House and then in Elberton, New Jersey, but died from his injuries September 19, 1881. His assassin, Charles J. Guiteau, surrendered himself after the shooting. Guiteau was a religious fanatic and a Stalwart, who had recently been refused a government job. Although he said he killed Garfield to "save the Republic," he was found guilty of murder and executed in 1882. 

  • Over the July 4th weekend of 1999, Benjamin Smith, a 21-year-old member of a white supremacy group, went on a shooting rampage across the states of Illinois and Indiana. Smith targeted Jews, blacks, and Asian-Americans, shooting 11 and killing two in three days. After an interstate manhunt, Smith killed himself. Smith illegally purchased his Bryco .380 pistol and Ruger .22 pistol from an unlicensed dealer who had bought them from the Old Prairie Trading Post in Pekin, Illinois. Donald R. Feissinger bought 65 handguns from the gun store over a period of two years, and was advertising them for sale in newspapers. The high volume of purchases of cheap handguns by Feissinger alerted federal agents and prompted them to begin an investigation. It was too late, however, to recover the guns that Feissinger had sold Smith on June 26, 1999. During the investigation, agents discovered that Feissinger was dealing firearms without a Federal Firearms License and arrested him. Police later learned that, on June 23, Smith had attempted to purchase two 9mm handguns and a shotgun from a Preoria Heights gun dealer. He was turned down when his background check turned up an "order of protection" filed by an ex-girlfriend. Smith was able to get a Firearm Owner's Identification Card, however, because of several errors in the order for protection, including an incorrect listing of his middle initial. The card was revoked June 30, two days before the shooting spree. 

  • On July 23, 1993, Larry Demery and Daniel Green killed James Jordan ,the father of basketball star Michael Jordan, in a botched robbery attempt after Jordan had pulled off of U.S. Highway 74 in Lumberton, North Carolina, to rest. Eventually realizing who their victim's son was, Demery and Green left the body in a South Carolina swamp and abandoned the car near Fayettville, North Carolina. The gun was later found in Green's trailer in North Carolina. The Smith & Wesson .38 revolver was illegal. It had been stolen during a robbery at Lowry's Short Stop near Pembroke, North Carolina, on July 15, 1993. After Demery and Green robbed the convenience store of $300, Green shot the clerk three times and stole his revolver. 

  • On July 24, 1998, Russell Weston, Jr., a man with a history of serious mental illness who often fantasized that he was being pursued by government agents, allegedly shot his way into the U.S. Capitol building. After allegedly killing Jacob Chestnut, a uniformed U.S. Capitol police officer, he ran into the building and allegedly killed John Gibson, a Capitol police special agent assigned to protect Majority Whip Representative Tom DeLay ( R-TX). Weston was subsequently wounded by police and captured. The Smith & Wesson .38 revolver was legal. Weston had taken the revolver and a shotgun from his father. Authorities found a .22 caliber handgun, gunpowder, and ammunition in Weston's Montana cabin. Though Weston had once been in a mental institution in Montana, he was still able to obtain a firearms permit in Illinois. 

  • On July 29, 1999, Mark O. Barton, a 44-year-old day trader, killed his wife and two children, then nine people in two brokerage offices in Atlanta, Georgia, before killing himself. He left a long, rambling note at his home, saying that he hated life, suffered unnamed terrors, and wanted to kill as many as possible of those who "greedily sought my destruction." Barton legally purchased the Glock Model 17 9mm pistol in 1993 in a gun shop (which is now out of business) in Warner Robins, Texas. The Colt .45 was bought in 1983 by a man in Richardson, Texas. Police believe the gun was legally sold to Barton in a private sale because it was never reported missing or stolen. Police also found a .25 Raven pistol and a .22 Harrington & Richardson revolver in Barton's van.