The gunman who pleaded guilty last month to a 2019 mass shooting at an El Paso Walmart store bought the gun used in the attack from an online retailer that typically receives payments via credit card.
Brian Park, the gunsmith at the Plano, Texas store Gunmaster, said the retailer’s records show the shooter picked up a WASR-10 semi-automatic rifle at the store on June 28, 2019. The gun, which is a Romanian-made variant of an AK-47 assault rifle, was transferred to Gunmaster from a Bishopville, Maryland-based online retailer called Atlantic Firearms.
While the order receipt accompanying the rifle from Atlantic Firearms included the shooter’s name, the gun’s serial number, a shipment date and the importer’s name, Century Arms, it didn’t include any payment information, Park said in an interview.
The Atlantic Firearms website shows a GP WASR 10 AK 47 rifle available for purchase at $972.99, with options to pay using Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discover credit cards, or debit cards and pre-paid cards. It also accepts certified check or money orders. In an email, Atlantic Firearms declined to confirm any information about the sale.
Park said typically people who buy guns online use a credit card. Purchasers can buy guns from Atlantic Firearms with a check, but it’s “very uncommon,” he added.
Calls and emails to the U.S. District Attorney for the Western District of Texas and to the shooter’s court-appointed lawyer, Joe Spencer, were not returned. In addition to federal charges for the killing of 23 people at the store, the shooter faces separate state capital murder charges.
Generally, paying with credit may not end up being much of a commitment to pay, pointed out Adam Skaggs, chief counsel for Giffords Law Center. “A lot of these (shootings) either involve suicide at the end of the completed mass shooting, or sort of ‘suicide by cop,’ so to speak,” Skaggs said in an interview. “If you’re not planning to be alive in a week or a couple of weeks…then you’re obviously not going to be concerned with using your credit card.”
Giffords Law Center worked with other groups to advocate for the adoption of a dedicated merchant category code for credit card sales. An international organization published that new standard last month.
“If these merchant category codes were wisely implemented” it may flag unusual purchase activity, Skaggs said. “The code is not to deny sales, it’s just to simply flag suspicious sales,” he added.
Skaggs said there is no comprehensive research data showing how active shooters pay for their weapons as it hasn’t been possible to track gun purchases in the past. In 2018, The New York Times reported that gunmen in 13 shootings between 2007 and 2018 used credit cards.
A spokesperson for El Paso’s police department said there is no information regarding how the shooter paid for his gun in their records.
Payments Dive is tracking the payment methods used by shooters to buy the guns they wield in mass shootings.