The Dallas Police Shooter Bought an AK-47 Via Facebook

The sale was made with no background check and was finalized in a parking lot.

Dallas shooter Micah Xavier JohnsonFacebook/ZUMA Wire

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Update: Today, Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) called on Facebook and Instagram to prohibit postings for gun sales, citing concern over the news that Dallas gunman Micah Johnson had negotiated the purchase of an AK-47 through Facebook in 2014. “I remain deeply concerned that gun sales on Facebook and Instagram—or sales posted online but negotiated and concluded offline—may circumvent or violate state and federal laws, resulting in numerous unlawful sales of handguns, assault weapons, and other firearms,” Sen. Markey wrote in a letter addressed to the companies’ executives. Markey also asked the companies for information on what steps they have taken to address postings for gun sales. In response, a Facebook spokesman told Mother Jones in a statement, “We prohibit people from using Facebook and Instagram to offer and coordinate private sales of firearms. Any content that violates this policy will be removed as soon as we become aware of it – whether it is in groups, on accounts, or on pages.”

In 2014, Micah Johnson, who killed five police officers and injured seven in an ambush in Dallas last week, purchased an AK-47 rifle in a deal arranged through Facebook and finalized in a Target parking lot, according to the New York Daily News. In an interview with the Daily News, the seller, 26-year-old Colton Crews, said that Johnson “didn’t stand out as a nut job. He didn’t stand out as a crazy person at all.” In fact, because Johnson had been a US military service member, Crews said “he was like your first pick when you’re selling a gun to somebody.”

The AK-47 was apparently not used in the Dallas attack. Citing an unnamed law enforcement official, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that Johnson used an Izhmash-Saiga 5.45 mm rifle, an AK-style variant, in the shooting. But news of the sale highlights just how easy it is to acquire a gun through Facebook. The social media giant has come under fire from activists who say the company isn’t doing enough to make sure the site isn’t used as an online weapons bazaar. In Texas, where Johnson purchased the AK-47 from Crews, background checks are not required in private sales, and Facebook pages dedicated to selling firearms are ubiquitous.

In the wake of the Orlando massacre last month, a disparate collection of individuals began taking to Facebook to report pages and individuals advertising gun sales in an attempt to get them kicked off the site for violating its user rules. In January, Facebook banned users from coordinating unregulated gun sales, but it has left the enforcement of the ban entirely to users who report violators.

In his interview with the Daily News, Crews said, “First off, it was my belief [Johnson] would have passed a background check. He didn’t seem weird in any way, just a normal guy.” At the Target parking lot where the deal was finalized, they made small talk. They checked out the AK-47, making sure it was in working condition, and Crews’ stepdad thanked Johnson for his service. Johnson made a comment about how he missed the rifle’s firepower since returning home from Afghanistan. “He seems like he’s 100 percent on the up and up.”

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Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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