Nobody was more surprised than 21-year-old Emerson Begolly when he cleared an Federal Bureau of Investigation background check and was allowed to purchase an AK-47 assault rifle last year. After all, he’d been a moderator and contributor on Islamic extremist web forums, posted songs praising suicide bombers, discussed his jihad fantasies in the open and even made an appearance in Newsweek under a pseudonym that his grandmother clipped and saved. He knew for a fact “the man” was onto him.
“i honestly think that the day the[y] ended the hold and sold me the gun someone at the FBI showed up to work drunk,” Begolly wrote on a jihadist web forum under the name Abu Nancy (the name of his imaginary daughter), according to transcripts filed by the feds yesterday.
The alleged jihad-enthusiast, who allegedly wrote he “would go down like McVeigh” whose Nazi-enthusiast father could himself arm a small militia, kept 14 guns and three AK-47-style assault rifles in his room despite apparent monitoring by the FBI.
His ability to obtain yet another weapon despite his increasing radical leanings is a result of federal law, under which one has to be a convicted felon or be found too mentally ill by a court to be disqualified. Critics call it the “terror gap.” Under current federal law, individuals on the terror watch list (as Begolly almost certainly was) can walk right into a store and pick up a weapon capable of firing dozens of rounds in a matter of seconds.
In this instance, the store which sold Begolly the gun was Dunham’s Sporting Goods in Natrona Heights, Penn., authorities say. Two Dunham’s employees who spoke to TPM on the phone, one who said his first name was Jeff and another who identified himself as Joe, said they have no comment. They declined to say whether they were cooperating with federal authorities.
There was a major push in the spring to close the so-called terror gap. But the powerful gun lobby lined up behind it, branding Mayor Michael Bloomberg “Today’s McCarthy” for supporting what he called a “common sense” measure.
That’s why Begolly wrote he didn’t care “if they try and raid my home now… i have my AK next to me propped up against my armchair as we speak but i keep the safety on when i sleep.”
He even had some recommendations for how his jihadist pen pal Hassan could get his hands on a weapon of his own, asking Hassan (an unidentified Maryland high school student, apparently) if he knew any kids at his school, “like black kids, who fancy themselves as gangsta who might sell you a gun?”
Still, he was worried about what November’s election meant for his gun rights.
“u r closer to buying a [gun] cause i saw a lot of democrats win yesterday and i don’t like republicans i hate them but i hate democrats worse cause they r for queers and abortions and anti firearms,” he wrote to his jihadist pen pal on Nov. 3. “they republicans destory [sic] other countrys [sic] dems destroy america.”
The only thing that appears to have prevented Begolly from acting on his desire to commit jihad was lack of funds and something more difficult to get than an assault rifle: a drivers license.
“u dont need to be a good shot or strong all u need is the money ability to drive and courage,” Begolly allegedly wrote.
Additional reporting by Melissa Jeltsen.