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Congressional Races Are Our Best Shot at Gun Control

Four days before the shooting, my husband asked me whether I’d ordered guns online. This story takes place in the United States, which means I need to be more specific about the shooting. As a matter of fact, there were two that week—one in Gilroy, California, and one in El Paso, Texas. We had this conversation after Gilroy but before El Paso. “What are you talking about?” I asked, a chuckle forming in my throat at the absurdity of the question. My husband was looking at his phone, squinting as he tried to decipher an e-mail alert about a package from a gun dealer. “It says here that your delivery was redirected. It’s waiting for you at the UPS facility in downtown Los Angeles.”

Someone was shipping me guns? What a sinister joke, I thought. But try as I might, I couldn’t figure out who might do this. The UPS delivery alert listed the sender as a gun shop in Arkansas, so I looked up its phone number and called. The customer service rep, a young man with a lilting accent, pulled up the order for me. “Yup,” he said. “I have it all right here.” Then he rattled off a list of gun attachments and accessories, totaling $1,304.63. I told him that my credit card number must have been stolen, because I hadn’t placed the order. “Oh.” He sounded annoyed. “Well, I need to get off the phone and try to get this shipment back before it’s picked up, or else we’re going to lose money.”

California, where I live, has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation. It bans assault weapons and large-capacity magazines, has a 10-day waiting period for firearms sales and transfers, and doesn’t recognize concealed-carry permits issued elsewhere. But gun manufacturers have found ingenious ways to circumvent such state restrictions: They’ve modified gun designs to allow for tactical attachments. As my story shows, it’s not terribly difficult for someone to turn a gun purchased legally in California into an assault weapon by buying modification kits and accessories from out of state. And with stolen credit card information, the purchase is not even traceable to the person who made it.

Out of caution, I called my local police department. I was curious whether the officers would be able to do anything about what was clearly a suspicious purchase. I was fearful, too, because I happen to be Muslim, and I worried that someone might go on a shooting rampage under my name. The officer I spoke with let out a bitter laugh. “That kind of fraud is rampant,” she said.

I tried to imagine the man—for it is usually a man and usually a white one—who did this. Did he have something in common with other mass shooters? Was he, perhaps, a white supremacist intent on starting a race war? An anti-Semite who blamed Jews for hosting immigrant invaders? A xenophobe who feared that Hispanics would take control of the local and state governments? Was he consumed with hatred for women, as so many of these men are? Did he have grudges against his neighbors? Or was he an aimless man like the one in Thousand Oaks, California, who murdered 12 innocent people because, as the shooter posted on social media, “Life is boring so why not?”

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