Man Who Sold Gun Used in Shooting Without Background Check Pleads Guilty

ESR Background Screening News

Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

A man who sold a rifle without a background check that was later used to kill seven people and injure 25 more – including three police officers – during a 2019 mass shooting in Midland and Odessa, Texas, has pleaded guilty to a gun crime, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of Texas.

Marcus Anthony Braziel, 45, of Lubbock, Texas, admitted he sold Seth Aaron Ator an AR-15-style rifle in 2016 – three years before Ator used it in the shooting and was killed by police – plea papers indicated. Braziel pleaded guilty to one count of dealing firearms without a license and one count of subscribing to a false tax return.

“If you’re a firearms dealer – whether you’re selling out of a brick-and-mortar store, in your basement, or online – you must ensure that a background check is conducted on your purchasers,” U.S. Attorney Erin Nealy Cox, the chief federal law enforcement officer in the Northern District of Texas, stated in the press release.

Ator – who had been adjudicated “mentally defective” and was legally prohibited from possessing firearms – tried to buy a gun from a store but was rejected after the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) that checks records on persons who may be disqualified from receiving firearms flagged his mental status.

Ator circumvented the NICS system by purchasing a gun from Braziel, who did not run a background check on any of his buyers. In a four-year span, Braziel inadvertently sold firearms to four prohibited persons: a convicted felon, a man under felony indictment, an illegal immigrant, and Ator, who was deemed unfit to possess a firearm.

While a background check is not necessarily required for in-state private transfers, Braziel admitted he was “engaged in the business of selling firearms” and thus should have been licensed and conducting background checks. He now faces up to five years in federal prison. His sentencing has been set for January 2021.

“As this case makes clear, dealing firearms without a license isn’t some obscure, technical violation. It is unlawful conduct that has real-world impact and the potential for devastating results,” U.S. Attorney Nealy Cox stated, adding the Justice Department enforces laws “designed to prevent firearms from falling into the wrong hands.”

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