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El Paso Shooting Suspect Said He Ordered His AK-47 And Ammo From Overseas

The white suspect in the racist massacre told El Paso police he bought the gun from Romania and picked it up at a Dallas-area store. Experts say guns imported from overseas are often cheaper than those from the U.S.

When the alleged gunman walked into an El Paso Walmart earlier this month to carry out the worst massacre of Hispanic people in recent American history, he went in with an assault weapon he said he bought from Romania, according to a Texas Department of Public Safety report obtained by The Texas Tribune.

The white 21-year-old suspect in the shooting told El Paso police shortly after his arrest that the Romanian AK-47 was sent to a gun dealer near his home in Allen, a suburb outside of Dallas. He also said he bought a thousand rounds of ammunition from Russia.

El Paso police have previously said that the AK-47 used in the shooting that killed 22 people was bought legally, but did not provide any additional details about its purchase. In a manifesto published just before the shooting, the alleged shooter said the rifle was a WASR-10, a semi-automatic version of a Romanian military AK-47 weapon. The DPS report obtained by the Tribune includes a summary of the suspect’s interview with police, providing more details on the weapon and the suspect’s actions in the racist slaying where he said he “wanted to shoot as many Mexicans as possible.”

DPS referred questions about the report to the El Paso Police Department, which declined to comment on the investigation. The suspect’s lawyer did not respond to request for comment.

Gun experts said it’s common for people to buy imported firearms online and have them delivered through local gun stores, which complete the necessary background check. Though the suspect said he purchased the gun from Romania, they said he likely bought online a Romanian-manufactured gun that had been imported into the United States.

“Primarily the reason that people are attracted to these imports is that they’re less expensive,” said David Chipman, a senior policy advisor at Giffords, a national gun control group, referring to similar U.S. weapons like the AR-15.

The suspected shooter told El Paso detectives shortly after his arrest that the Romanian rifle was delivered to “Gun Masters” in Allen, where he picked it up, according to the report. There is no store with that name in Allen, but there is a Gunmaster gun shop in neighboring Plano.

Gunmaster’s owner couldn’t be reached Tuesday by The Tribune. Brian Park, the store’s gunsmith, said he didn’t know if the El Paso shooter received the AK-47 from his store. When a reporter mentioned the alleged shooter referenced a store called Gun Masters in Allen, Park said “that would be us.” But, Park added, he thought he would have heard if the shooter received his weapon from his store.

“Largely, today these styles of assault weapons are being characterized as sporting weapons,” Chipman said, adding that the interpretation varies in different presidential administrations.

Chipman said the importer for the WASR-10 was likely Florida-based Century Arms, which makes any modifications to ensure they’re U.S. legal and then transfers the purchased guns to a local dealer. Century Arms did not return calls or emails from the Tribune.

Michael Cargill, owner of Central Texas Gun Works in Austin, said the process is similar to buying a foreign car — but with an added federal background check of the buyer at the local store.

“Think of it like a BMW or a Mercedes,” he said. “You get it through a local dealer here.”

Ammunition bought online, however, can be shipped from overseas directly to your door if it’s legal in the receiving state, Cargill said. Only six states and Washington, D.C. have bans on possessing assault weapons, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Violence. Texas is not one of them.

In addition to information about the weapon, the alleged gunman told detectives about his manifesto, seemingly confirming he wrote the hate-filled writings that described the attack as a “response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.” After the discovery of the manifesto, federal authorities began investigating the shooting as an act of domestic terrorism.

According to the DPS report, the suspect told police he went into the Walmart, came back out to his car to finish and publish the manifesto, then walked back into the store to kill Hispanic shoppers.

The report also said the suspect, wearing ear protection and carrying an assault weapon, “was surprised no one challenged him or shot him” when he walked into the store. In Texas, no license is legally needed to openly carry a rifle in public. He also said that, after the shooting, he left in his car and called 911, but he couldn’t get through to a dispatcher. He told detectives he was returning to the store to surrender when he encountered Texas Rangers.

Disclosure: Walmart has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

This piece was originally published in The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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The white suspect in the racist massacre told El Paso police he bought the gun from Romania and picked it up at a Dallas-area store. Experts say guns imported from overseas are often cheaper than those from the U.S.

AK-47 Rifle Price Drops; Is This Gun a Good Investment?

“Price is what you pay; value is what you get. Whether we’re talking about socks or stocks, I like buying quality merchandise when it is marked down.”

Actually, make that “whether we’re talking about socks, stocks . or AK-47 semiautomatic rifles with wooden stocks.” Because today, dear investor, we’re going to take a short break from the subject of investing in stocks (although that’s our very favorite subject), to talk instead about investing in guns.

Specifically, the AK-47 rifle.

Century Arms GP WASR-10 HI-CAP Semi-Auto Rifle. Photo: Century Arms.

Investing in guns: The Myth.
You’ve all heard the stories about how some lucky folks make a fortune from investing in guns. To cite just one recent example, in April 2014, a .45 caliber revolver once owned by Wyatt Earp — which probably cost about $20 when it was manufactured back in the 1800s — sold at auction for the princely sum of $225,000. That there’s a 1,124,900% profit, folks — or a very respectable 7% annualized return on investment, dating from the presumed date of purchase.

What are the chances of an investor in more common guns, such as the AK-47 rifle, which sells for less than $500 today, making anything like that kind of profit?

“You paid how much for my revolver?!” Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

. the theory .
Truth be told, profits like that earned at the Wyatt Earp revolver auction come but once in 150 years. As a general rule, guns such as the AK-47 don’t perform quite as well as investments. But why not?

In theory, the answer is that, unlike investments in land, gold, or for-sale historical relics, workaday firearms such as the AK-47 can be manufactured brand-new on factory floors. They’re not finite resources that can be exhausted, but renewable resources that can be infinitely replenished. This tends to put a lid on prices.

In one widely cited example, Foreign Policy magazine editor Moises Naim noted that in 1986 the price of an AK-47 in Kenya approximated the value of “15 cows.” By 2005, that same AK-47 rifle could be purchased for just four cows. With each passing year, weapons manufacturers such as Smith & Wesson and Sturm, Ruger here in the U.S., and their counterparts abroad, are sending new guns to market — which tends to push “used” gun prices down.

. and the reality
At least, that’s how things work in theory, and on a global scale. At the local level, though — within the regulated U.S. firearms market in particular — things can work a bit differently in practice. Look at the chart below. In it, I’ve compiled data provided to me by the good folks at BudsGunShop.com — one of the Internet’s largest retailers of new and used firearms — describing the fluctuations in retail price of one popular AK-47 rifle model that Bud’s has sold since 2007: the Romanian-manufactured Wassenaar Arrangement Semiautomatic Rifle.

Average AK 47 Rifle Price (Century RI1166-N WASR 10)

As you can see, in less than seven years, an average AK-47 rifle’s price grew by about 30%. It went from $371.55 in October 2007 to $484 at last quote. That is nearly 4% compounded annually — not as good as Wyatt Earp’s six-shooter, granted, but not a half-bad performance from a pretty common firearm. In fact, at one point — just after President Barack Obama’s election to a second term of office — this workaday weapon fetched an incredible $1,249 per piece, a whopping 236% profit in less than six years.

For comparison, let’s check out a couple of stock charts for the two biggest publicly traded gun manufacturers, Smith & Wesson and Sturm, Ruger:

Contrary to what you might expect, S&W — which, according to S&P Capital IQ, earns more than a 22% operating profit margin on the guns it manufactures — has actually underperformed Bud’s AK-47 model as an investment. At last check, a share of Smith & Wesson is worth less money than it was worth seven years ago.

Sturm, Ruger has done better, delivering tremendous returns to its investors — as much as an eightfold profit at its height earlier this year. Even after its recent sell-off, shares of Sturm show an impressive fourfold return over 2007 prices. As a result, investors in Sturm, Ruger have outperformed investors in Smith & Wesson — and investors in AK-47 rifles, too.

The upshot for investors
Now, it’s important to note that biggest movement in AK-47 rifle prices — a 155% run-up from $519 to $1,249 — came over the course of the 12 months between January 2012 and January 2013. That, if you recall, was an election year in which many gun buyers worried the federal government might take action to restrict sales of semiautomatic rifles such as the AK-47.

Such regulation ultimately failed to materialize. But just the fear that it might sent AK-47 rifle prices soaring. And, if you ask me, the continuing threat of such regulation — combined with new restrictions on Russian arms imports in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — help to explain why the AK-47 continues to enjoy strong (if erratic) price support.

Is that a good argument for investing in physical firearms, rather than in the stocks of companies that manufacture firearms? Maybe.

But judging from how much better shares of Sturm, Ruger have performed, in comparison to Smith & Wesson and the AK-47 rifle price, it could just be an argument in favor of picking better stocks.

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Rich Smith has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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