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Friday April 10 at 10pm EST on ABC's 20/20
After Binghamton, Questions Linger About Easy Access to Guns
Battle Over Access to Guns Renews After Shootings in New York, Pennsylvania
By CHRIS STRATHMANN and SARAH NETTER
April 6, 2009
As the nation gets a clearer picture of two killers who have made headlines in recent days -- one near Pittsburgh, one in Binghamton, N.Y. -- some are wondering whether Americans have too much access to guns.
Most of the recent shootings have been carried out by legal gunmen.
This morning, Shirley DeLucia is recovering from gunshot wounds in a New York hospital. Hailed as one of the heroes of Friday's massacre in Binghamton, DeLucia called police after being shot along with another receptionist who was killed.
Doctors say she should make a full physical recovery, but her brother, Lyle Fasset, said the emotional impact could take its toll for a long time to come.
"I think she's going to have a few problems," he said, adding that she worried about paying the bills the last time he visited her in the hospital.
As the gunman, identified as 41-year-old Jiverly Voong, blasted his way through the American Civic Association, DeLucia, 61, stayed on the phone for 38 minutes, guiding police and trying to provide them with information to prevent more people from being shot. Voong killed 13 people before turning the gun on himself.
"We're always there for her," Fasset said. "Chances are she's not going to ask for help. That's the kind of person she is."
On Saturday, one day after the Binghamton shootings, three Pittsburgh-area police officers were gunned down after responding to what they thought was a domestic disturbance call. Richard Poplawski, 23, the alleged shooter, was shot several times in the leg.
Police responded after his mother called 911 concerning an argument over a urinating dog. When the first two officers arrived, she opened the door, not knowing her son was standing behind her with an AK-47 assault-style rifle.
Police say he also had a .22-caliber rifle and a revolver and was wearing a bulletproof vest.
His close friend told ABC News that Poplawski had long feared losing his right to own guns.
"They were all legal," his friend Edward Perkovic said of the weapons. "He had about four guns. I've been in houses where they have gun cases with 20 guns. He had a small, small amount of guns."
"We have 32 people being murdered by guns every day in this country," said Michael Wolkowitz, a board member of the Brady Center, which lobbies for tighter gun restrictions. "If peanut butter or pistachio nuts or spinach killed that number of people once in one day, they'd be pulled by the [Food and Drug Administration]."
Purchasing a Gun, No Questions Asked
In the last month, seven U.S. shootings have killed 48 people.
Mourners pay tribute to shooting victims killed in separate massacres over the weekend. Some are concerned that firearm loopholes allow easy access to guns.
Investigators believe Voong was an isolated man who couldn't find work. Authorities said that people had been making fun of him and his inability to speak English and that he had made weekly visits to a gun range.
While the Constitution protects Americans' right to own guns, do laws make it too easy for potentially dangerous people to own firearms?
This weekend's mass shootings come nearly two years after the massacre at Virginia Tech and two years after the Virginia governor and authorities urged lawmakers to close what's called the gun show "loophole," where customers can buy guns, no questions asked.
For more than a year, ABC News has followed Omar Samaha, whose sister, Reema, was among the students killed at Virginia Tech. His quest now is to keep authorities to their word.
When ABC News traveled with Samaha to a gun show in Richmond, Va., he had about $5,000 in cash and one hour to see what he could buy.
He was approached by a seller before he even made it inside the door. Samaha was able to buy a gun -- a Glock-- no questions asked.
It was a purchase that chilled him. It was the same kind of gun used to kill his sister and 31 others at Virginia Tech.
Private sellers at gun shows in Virginia are not required to conduct background checks. It's a loophole that exists in 33 states.
Gun rights groups argue that the Virginia Tech shooter bought his weapons at a gun shop, not at a show, and that they shouldn't be held responsible for background checks that didn't work.
They say their privacy rights -- and business -- could be hurt, if the loophole is closed.