Easy Access: $5,000 and One Hour Buys 10 Guns

Brother of slain Va. Tech student takes part in a terrifying experiment.

April 9, 2009, 10:06 AM

RICHMOND, Va., April 9, 2009— -- The two-year anniversary of Virginia Tech, the largest massacre by a sole gunman in the country's history, is only one week away.

In the two years since, what has changed, what has been fixed, and what has stayed exactly the same?

Immediately following the tragedy, Virginia Governor Tim Kaine and other authorities called on lawmakers to close the so called "gun show loophole" -- by which anyone can buy a gun from a private dealer with no background check and no questions asked. Two years later, that loophole is still very much open, in Virginia and 32 other states around the country.

So just how easy is it to buy a gun at a gun show?

For over a year, ABC News has followed Omar Samaha on a very personal quest to hold those lawmakers to their word. Omar's sister Reema was one of 32 shot and killed at Virginia Tech. We went with Omar to a gun show in Richmond, Va. -- one of hundreds held every weekend across the state of Virginia and the country. We gave Samaha $5,000 and one hour to see how many guns he could buy, and how many questions he would be asked.


By 9:30 in the morning, the parking lot was already packed full of cars. Groups of men, couples and even families with children in tow streamed toward the quickly growing line out front. Samaha, 25, joined the crowds and while waiting on line, he was approached by a seller and given the opportunity to make a quick purchase. He bought a Glock handgun, with no background check, and no questions asked.

"He was just sitting right outside the door, I went up to him. 'How much do you want for it?'

"'$450 bucks.'

'Here's the cash.'

'Thanks. See you later.'

"That was it."

For Samaha, the Glock handgun was a particularly painful purchase. It was the same kind of gun used to kill his sister Reema when she was a freshman at Virginia Tech. Just holding the gun in his hand was difficult.

"I don't want to think about how gruesome it was and how somebody used this type of weapon on my sister and so many other innocent people. It's devastating," he said.

Buying Guns: No Background Check Required

Samaha walked back into the gun show, and within minutes he was out again, this time carrying a Colt AR 15, a semi-automatic assault weapon very similar to an M16. We asked if there were any questions asked.

"Nothing," he said. "I just went up, gave him cash. He's like, 'Cash is all you need.'"

Over the course of the hour, Samaha purchased 10 guns: three rifles, four shotguns, one handgun. He could have purchased many more handguns, but he wanted to abide by Virginia State law, which allows the purchase of one handgun per month, and two assault weapons.

Samaha was never asked to fill out any type of background check. At one point he was asked to show identification. When Samaha said he didn't have any, the seller quickly relented, not wanting to lose a sale.

"He's like, 'Give me $100 more and I'll let you go and take the risk.' I got two guns for $600 without any identification check," Samaha said.

Not only did Samaha buy 10 guns in one hour with incredible ease and no questions, he could have turned around and sold those same guns right in the parking lot. In fact, while standing next to his trunk full of guns, Omar was approached by a man who thought he was a seller. Omar knew the gun show loophole existed, but he was still shocked by how easy it was for him to buy guns with no questions asked.

"Anybody can do it," Samaha said. "And it's for real. It's that easy. Anyone. Someone who's adjudicated mentally ill, someone who's a known felon. Someone who has a history of crime. I think people don't realize how easy it really is."

In fact, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) reports in their investigations that private sellers at gun shows are a major source of gun crime in the country. In the two years since Reema's death, Samaha has fought hard to get the loophole closed in his home state of Virginia.

He has lobbied lawmakers, spoken publicly about his sister and even launched an online campaign about the dangers of guns on campus. A law to close the gun show loophole has come up twice in the Virginia State legislature, and twice the body has voted against the bill, even though it was one of the key recommendations to come out of Kaine's Virginia Tech Review Panel.

Gun Show Loophole

When Virginia lawmakers voted against closing the loophole, Samaha was shocked. "It really made me wonder what kind of people we have making our laws," he said.

Among those who voted twice against closing the gun show loophole is state John S. Edwards, a Virginia Democrat who represents the district that includes Virginia Tech. After repeated attempts to reach Edwards, the state senator did not respond to calls from ABC News.

Gun rights groups don't want to see the loophole closed because they fear that background checks will hurt business at gun shows, and also threaten privacy rights. They also argue that the Virginia Tech shooter didn't buy his gun at a gun show. Seung Hui Cho bought his gun legally at a gun store even though he had a documented history of mental illness. That breakdown in the system was addressed immediately following Virginia Tech, but families of the victims argue that with the gun show loophole still open, it is just too easy to buy a gun with no questions asked.

For Samaha, it's not about the right to own a gun, it's about how easy it is for guns to end up in the wrong hands.

"We're not trying to keep guns out of the hands of good citizens. If you can pass a background check, which anyone can do in a matter of minutes, then you can buy guns," he said.

Former ATF agent Gerald Nunziato was with Samaha at the gun show in Richmond, Va. With years of experience fighting gangs and drug organizations, Nunziato was all too familiar with the guns that Samaha bought.

"My experience as an agent in Detroit and Miami is that these guns [shotguns] would be sawed off at the barrel," he said. "They're a very high-powered scatter gun that's used a lot by drug gang members 'cause they're easy to get in and out of your car."

Even though Samaha immediately turned in all the weapons he bought at the gun show to the Richmond Police Department, Nunziato pointed out that if Samaha had wanted to, he could have caused a lot of damage with the guns he purchased.

"There were three or four police cars in the parking lot [at the gun show]. None of them could have stopped him [Samaha] with the firepower he bought," said Nunziato.

For Samaha, it's all about honoring his sister Reema's memory and working to prevent another tragedy from happening again.

"I think I'm doing something she would do," he said. "I think she would be proud of me and tell me to keep going."


Angel Fund: The Angel Fund web site honors the memory of Reema Samaha and explores those issues that contributed to the tragedy at Virginia Tech on April 16, 2007.

E-mail: contactus@angelfundva.org

Students for Gun Free Schools: Omar launched an online campaign about the dangers of guns on campus.

E-mail: Info@StudentsforGunFreeSchools.org