.50 cal. backgrounder

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Killeen, TX – S. Ft. Hood Street is a maze of tattoo parlors, pawn shops, housing developments, apartment complexes, barber shops, oriental buffets, shopping centers and GI families rushing to and from the world’s largest military complex.

Situated along the razor-straight stretch of highway is Guns Galore, famous for being the spot where Maj. Abu Nidal Malik Hasan bought his firearm of choice, the FN Herstal semiauto pistol equipped with laser sights he used to mow down unarmed soldiers both male and female as they waited for pre-deployment medical exams in November, 2009.

It is also the place where a suspicious sales clerk identified Jason Nasser Abdo as a terrorist when he was trying to decide if he wanted to buy black powder or smokeless gunpowder in order to build an improvised explosive device. Killeen police arrested him the next morning at an area motel where the 101st Airborne soldier had been staying since going over the hill at his duty station in Kentucky.

Pro-gun activists who insist on openly carrying loaded rifles on the streets and highways of Texas cities have begun to sport black powder weapons because federal law does not classify them as firearms.

Because of that quirk in the law – or perhaps of the exceedingly laborious task of loading the weapon with powder, a wad, and ramming the ball down the muzzle – federal gun regulators at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and the FBI have not required background checks for previous convictions or mental instability in order to purchase a cap and ball revolver or single shot rifle that uses black powder.

But all that has changed, according to a sales clerk at the gun emporium.

If it’s .50 caliber or better and capable of being turned into a center fire weapon,” he explained, “they insist that we do a background check on the purchaser. How do you determine that? Obviously, a machinist can make anything he wants to.”

He shrugged. “We have decided we will do the background checks, anyway, because we are unable to determine if a weapon could be made into a center-fire firearm…”  

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