World & Nation

Suspect in massacre tried to buy rifle days before, sources say

NEWTOWN, Conn. -- Adam Lanza, the suspect in the suburban Connecticut elementary school shooting rampage, tried to purchase a “long gun” rifle from a local shop but was turned away because he did not want to wait for the required 14-day background check, law enforcement sources said Saturday.

As this western Connecticut town continued to seek a way of coping with the grief from Friday’s shooting that left 28 people dead, including the gunman and his mother, officials pressed their search into how and why one of the worst massacres in U.S. history took place.


Officials have yet to name the gunman but law enforcement sources have said he was Adam Lanza, 20. He reportedly killed his mother, Nancy, in the home they shared, stole several weapons and went to Sandy Hook Elementary School, where he shot and killed 20 children and six adults before killing himself, law enforcement sources said.

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Just days before the school shooting, Adam Lanza attempted to purchase a single “long gun” rifle from a local gun store but was turned away because he did not want to wait for the required 14-day background check, according to two federal law enforcement officials.

Sources said he entered the store “earlier in the week” in the Newtown area and inquired about buying one rifle. He was only 20 years old, and did not have a permit for firearms, and was told about a 14-day background check that would have to be done, the sources said.

“He didn’t want to wait the 14 days,” said one source, declining to be identified because the case is still under review. “So they denied him. The sale did not take place.”

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When Adam Lanza left the house, he took a Bushmaster .223 rifle and two handguns -- a Glock 9-millimeter and a Sig Sauer semiautomatic, law enforcement sources said. He left the rifle in the back seat of his mother’s car, which he used to drive to the school. Both handguns were fired in the attack, sources said.

His divorced parents also owned three other “single-action rifles,” but it remained unclear how much access Adam Lanza had to those firearms and whether it was his mother or father who possessed the weapons, the sources said.

Authorities, meanwhile, are still putting together a comprehensive trace on all the weapons.

“We know the manufacturers, and are pretty sure when they were purchased,” a source said. “But the trace is not complete yet.”


Memorial services began Friday evening and continued on Saturday. But impromptu commemorations have begun popping up in and around Newtown.

At the center of town, where the street to the school is still closed by police, causing traffic jams, someone had created a “Flag of Honor” -- an American flag with the numbers 1 through 27 written in blue on small slips of paper.

“Say a prayer” was written on a piece of cardboard nearby.

On two brick buildings in the center of town, cloth banners flew.

“Hug a teacher today,” one read, taped to the building with red tape. “God bless sandy hook,” another said, with a gold heart under it.

A blue Mickey Mouse ball sat under a large tree nearby, decorated with Christmas lights.

“We will love you all forever and ever,” it said, with a frowny face drawn on it crying tears.

“It’s just hard to believe,” said Megan Olszewski, a freshman in high school, checking out the memorial with her older brother Daniel. “This town is never going to be the same.”


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Serrano reported from Washington and Semuels reported from Newtown.