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SANTEE SCHOOL SHOOTINGS

Rare Handgun Used in Rampage

Firearms: U.S. agents are tracing the past of the .22-caliber German revolver. Suspect's father says it was locked away.

March 07, 2001|JOSH MEYER and STEVE BERRY | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

The gun that 15-year-old Charles Andrew Williams allegedly used in his deadly rampage was a relatively rare German-made Arminius .22-caliber long-barrel revolver that his father says belonged to him and was locked away.

Federal authorities said they plan to continue tracing the gun, however, to determine whether father Charles Jeffrey Williams possessed it lawfully and who owned it before him.

"We're trying to see if it was purchased by him, if he's the current owner, and if it was purchased legally," said Sonny Wilson, assistant special agent in charge of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms' Los Angeles division office, which includes San Diego.

The ATF is tracing the gun's path to Santee in accordance with the federal Youth Crime Gun Interdiction Initiative, which requires that authorities determine how a minor obtains a gun used in the commission of a felony crime.

Donald R. Kincaid, special agent in charge of the ATF's Southern California operations, said the small-caliber revolver--model number HW7--was manufactured in Germany. From there it was shipped to the United States in the late 1970s, passing through at least two wholesalers before being bought by a customer shortly afterward.

Kincaid would not say who purchased the weapon or where. Agents also could not determine the chain of ownership after the initial purchase.

"Without knowing that, we can't say how it got where it is," Kincaid said.

ATF agents were stymied by the fact that gun owners do not have to file documentation of sales between private individuals. Kincaid said transactions often occur at gun shows or swap meets where the participants do not know each other, making traces virtually impossible.

"There are cases like this where you can't make anything fit," Kincaid said.

Local authorities also are investigating the circumstances surrounding the gun--specifically Williams' assertion that he was the owner and kept it locked away. If they believe he is being untruthful, Williams could be charged with a felony called criminal storage.

That law makes it a felony if a child under 16 hurts someone with a loaded gun that was left unlocked. Should someone be killed or seriously hurt, the crime is punishable by up to three years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

The Weapon

The German-made revolver that was used in the Santana High School shootings is an inexpensive gun that winds up on many counties' "junk gun lists."

*

* Caliber

Arminius .22 LR revolver

* Bullet velocity

1,280 feet per second at 50 yards

* Manufactuer

Herman Weihrauch, a West German company, in the 1950s

* Price

$100 to $300

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RESTRICTIONS

Los Angeles County bans all Arminius models. Under a California law that went into effect Jan. 1, it cannot be sold in the state because it is not among the 380 models that have been subjected to and passed safety tests. In Maryland, where the the Williams family lived before moving to Santee, many Arminius models are allowed, but not this one.

*

Note: The gun is not actual size

Sources: Violence Policy Center, San Diego Sheriff's Department; compiled by MIKE FANEUFF/Los Angeles Times

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