San Bernardino shooter’s friend Enrique Marquez arrested
AP Sources: Buyer of rifles used in massacre to be charged.
WASHINGTON Federal authorities are preparing criminal charges against a man who investigators say supplied guns to the married couple who killed 14 people at a holiday party in San Bernardino, California, this month, two government sources said on Thursday. The first charges in the San Bernardino terrorist attack will be brought against a friend and former neighbor of Syed Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik, law enforcement officials said Thursday. U.S. prosecutors are considering filing firearms charges against Marquez, with state gun charges also possible, one of the government sources told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
California has some of the nation’s most secure gun control laws, earning the top grade from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence’s annual scorecard for five years running: all gun sales require a licensed dealer and background check, guns classified by the state as assault weapons are banned, and buyers may not purchase more than one handgun per month. Marquez, 24, who had checked himself into a Los Angeles-area psychiatric facility shortly after the shootings, had several connections to Farook and Malik and quickly became a key figure in the investigation of the shootings. According to The Washington Post, the couple had thousands more rounds of ammunition in their car and home, indicating that the four-minute attack at the IRC was not meant to be their only target. The FBI says that it is investigating the rampage as an act of terrorism and that the Muslim couple had discussed jihad and martyrdom as early as 2013. During the investigation, a law enforcement source said Marquez, who had converted to Islam, and Farook apparently had plotted some sort of attack around 2012 but abandoned the idea.
President Barack Obama said he was briefed on the investigation Thursday and reiterated the federal government’s commitment to find answers to all the unknowns in the case. A profile of Marquez in the New York Times from Dec. 11 depicted him as something of a big talker whose deeds may not have matched the claims he often made at the bar where he worked: “He would say stuff like: ‘There’s so much going on. Farook, the U.S-born son of Pakistani immigrants, and Pakistani-born Malik were killed in a shootout with police a few hours after their assault on the party.
They “were plotting an actual attack” that year, including buying weapons, but became apprehensive and shelved the plan because of arrests in the area, said Idaho Sen. Those who opposed the ban claimed gun-control measures were irrelevant, and criticized the President for not focusing on fighting terror abroad before its influence reaches the US. Their attack, which left 21 people wounded, has stirred concerns among Americans about national security and the reach of Islamic State, becoming an issue in the U.S. presidential campaign. The attack came a few weeks after gunmen and suicide bombers affiliated with Islamic State killed 130 people in a series of coordinated attacks in Paris.
Records show that Marquez married Mariya Chernykh at a ceremony at the Islamic Society of Corona-Norco, though the mosque’s facility manager denied it occurred there. California’s assault weapons ban has an exception for weapons like Farook’s Smith & Wesson M&P15, and Malik’s DPMS A-15, if a button-release feature is added to the weapons, making the weapon’s magazine fixed rather than detachable. Neighbors said Marquez and Farook often worked together on cars in Farook’s garage in their younger years but that the friendship had cooled in the past three years.
Marquez’s illegal gun transfer to the couple also highlights so-called straw purchases, when a gun is bought by someone who intends to give it to someone else. According to a PBS “Frontline” report, such gun sales are often easy to spot, with both individuals visiting a gun dealer together to make the purchase, and account for a significant percentage of guns used in crimes, versus only 10-15 percent that are stolen. Three days after the attack, federal agents raided his mother’s house in Riverside, a city near San Bernardino that is about 60 miles east of Los Angeles.
Marquez’s friends were shocked to learn he was linked to the attack by the weapons and described him as a friendly, easygoing guy who was not religious and rarely discussed his family or marriage. “I still can’t believe this is going on,” said Viviana Ramirez, who met Marquez through an online forum when they studied at Riverside Community College. “I just want people to know he’s not a bad person.” Marquez was a licensed security guard for several years, but his license expired at the end of 2014. Polls have found that, despite split opinions on “gun control” writ large, the vast majority of Americans support background checks for gun purchases.
Today, the National Rifle Association (NRA) opposes expanding background checks: a shift from their late-1990s position of encouraging checks “for every sale at every gun show. But the gun lobby’s opposition also stems from fears of a national gun registry, which they claim could one day enable the government to confiscate citizens’ guns – an unconstitutional action. The impact of background checks on gun sales is more than lost dollars when potential buyers with mental illness or criminal records are turned away, he says: There is also an indirect loss of profit: Cutting off sales to the mentally ill and criminals will reduce crime and thereby reduce the public’s demand for guns for self-protection. While national agreement over background checks seems far off, states like Connecticut and California may continue imposing stricter laws, at least on what types of guns are available for purchase.
And cities may continue to come to consensus: earlier this month, the Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to a Chicago suburb’s ban on semiautomatic weapons with high-capacity magazines. “I am certain California will re-examine [the button-mechanism modification] law in the near future.
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