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Where'd They Get Their Guns?

An Analysis of the Firearms Used in High-Profile Shootings, 1963 to 2001

Date: September 22, 2000

Location: Backstreet Caf�, Roanoke, Virginia

Alleged Shooter: Ronald Gay

People Killed: One

People Injured: Six

Firearm(s): Ruger 9mm pistol


Gay, a Vietnam veteran who was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, asked a restaurant employee where he could find the nearest gay bar. Minutes later, he allegedly entered the Backstreet Caf� and opened fire with his Ruger 9mm pistol, killing one person and wounding six. He was arrested 10 minutes later, confessed to the shootings, and said that he was distressed about the homosexual connotation associated with his last name.

How Firearm(s) Acquired

The pistol was purchased legally in the fall of 1999 from a gun store in Roanoke, Virginia. Despite his mental health history, Gay had never been committed involuntarily, so there was no legal reason to prevent the purchase.


  1. Tad Dickens, "Murder Suspect Grouses About Jail; Gay Wants Transfer to the VA in Salem," Roanoke Times & World News, 24 January 2001, sec. B, p. 1.
  2. Kimberly O'Brien, "�I Saw the Fire Come Out of the Gun, I Heard the Bam...I Knew I'd be Next,'" Roanoke Times & World News, 1 October 2000, sec. A, p. 1.
  3. Zeke Barlow, "Untangling the Twisted Path of Ronald Gay," Roanoke Times & World News, 2 October 2000, sec. A, p. 1.

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 All contents � 2001 Violence Policy Center


The Violence Policy Center is a national non-profit educational foundation that conducts research on violence in America and works to develop violence-reduction policies and proposals. The Center examines the role of firearms in America, conducts research on firearms violence, and explores new ways to decrease firearm-related death and injury.