What We Know About the Tsarnaev Brothers' Guns

| Tue Apr. 23, 2013 6:22 PM EDT

We still don't have a full account of where and how the Tsarnaev brothers obtained the firearms and explosives they allegedly used in the deadly attacks that began on April 15 at the Boston Marathon. Here are the details about their guns that have emerged so far:

How may firearms did they have?
Along with several pipe bombs, law enforcement officials recovered four guns they believed the Tsarnaevs used, according to a report in the New York Times (Update: officials are now saying only one 9 mm handgun was recovered.) Authorities believe three of the firearms—two handguns of unspecified makes and models, and a BB gun—were used in the dramatic early morning shootout with police in Watertown that left Tamerlan dead.

Did they have military-grade weapons?
The other gun, described by the Times as an M-4 carbine rifle "similar to ones used by American forces in Afghanistan," was reportedly found on the boat in the Watertown driveway where Dzhokhar was captured. It is unclear whether the rifle is a semi-automatic civilian model or the selective-fire model used by the military.

What gun laws would they have been subject to?
Both Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev were residents of Massachusetts, a state with strict gun laws including a ban on assault weapons and magazines holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition. Along with Washington, D.C., Massachusetts is one of just seven states with some form of assault weapons ban. No such restrictions exist under federal law, but if the M-4 is a selective-fire model it would fall under the highly restrictive National Firearms Act of 1934 that requires the registration of automatic weapons.

Did they have gun permits? Could they have gotten any?
Reuters reported that neither brother had a valid handgun permit in the state of Massachusetts. Because he is younger than 21, Dzhokhar could not have legally owned a handgun even with a permit. He also did not have the firearms identification card he would have needed to legally possess a semi-automatic rifle with a 10-round magazine. BB guns don't require licensing for non-minors in Massachusetts.

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I heard Dzhokar turned a gun on himself. Is that true?
When he was captured, Dzhokhar "had visible injuries including gunshot wounds to the head, neck, legs, and hand," according to an FBI agent in the Boston Globe. His wounds initially prevented him from speaking, and, according to a senior US official cited in the Times, at least one "had the appearance of a close-range, self-inflicted style."

Did the Tsarnaev brothers attempt to get additional weapons during their rampage?
According to CBS News, investigators are looking into whether the Tsarnaevs allegedly killed an MIT police officer to obtain another handgun. They failed because they couldn't remove the handgun from the slain officer's locking holster. "There was apparently an attempt to yank it and they couldn't get it and left," reported CBS News senior correspondent John Miller.

Did they have high-capacity magazines?
It seems more probable than not that the Tsarnaevs used ammunition devices that were in violation of the state's 10-round magazine limit. According to reports on the Watertown shootout with police, more than 200 rounds were exchanged in that gun battle.

Will the ATF be able to trace their weapons?
According to the Washington Post, authorities are attempting to trace one of the Tsarnaevs' handguns, whose serial number was removed. If technicians are able to determine the serial number, they plan to hand it over to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives in West Virginia.

UPDATE, Wednesday, April 24: The Associated Press reports that two US officials are saying that Boston bombing investigators have just one 9 mm handgun that they believe was used in the Tsarnaevs' shootout with police. That contradicts the Sunday report in the New York Times, which cited an unnamed official who said the brothers used two handguns and a BB gun during the shootout.

UPDATE 2, Thursday, April 25: According to a report in the New York Times, law enforcement officials are now saying that Dzhokhar had no gun with him in the boat where he was captured. Earlier, officials said there had been an exchange of gunfire between police and Dzhokhar, but now, according to the Times, "officials say they are exploring what prompted officers to fire at Mr. Tsarnaev, who some feared was armed with explosives." (Previous reports suggesting that Dzhokhar tried to kill himself in the boat with a self-inflicted gun shot apparently were inaccurate.) Officials reportedly have recovered only one gun, a 9 mm Ruger they believe was used by Tamerlan.

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