Can background checks curb gun violence?

(NEW YORK) — Darien Richardson, a 25-year-old woman in Maine, was sleeping in her apartment when armed intruders burst in and shot her several times in January 2010.

Her boyfriend survived the incident, but after weeks in the hospital, she died the following month due to complications from her gunshot wounds, Portland police said.

Finding her assailant seemed possible when authorities discovered that the handgun used to shoot her was apparently recovered at the scene of another murder, according to her family and news reports. But they were not able to trace it to the person who shot Darien.

“A sad and unfortunate twist in this case is that a little more than a month after Darien and her boyfriend were shot, the same gun was used in a murder on Park Avenue here in Portland,” Portland Police Assistant Chief Vernon Malloch told the Bangor Daily News in 2012. “That case is solved. We recovered the firearm. We know that it’s the same gun that killed both people. Unfortunately, we don’t know where the gun came from.”

The person who pulled the trigger remains a mystery in part due to a major loophole in the nation’s gun background check system: a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) investigation traced the gun back to a private sale at a Maine gun show, where the first owner sold it to someone he didn’t know, without a background check and without any record of the sale, the Bangor Daily News reported authorities said.

Not only did the loophole make the crime harder to solve, but it may also have made it easier for the crime to be committed in the first place.

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