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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 9, 1999

Location: Near Laurel, Maryland

Alleged Shooter: Richard Wayne Spicknall, II

People Killed: Two

People Injured: None

Firearm(s): Smith & Wesson 9mm pistol


Spicknall, who was embroiled in a divorce with his wife, took his two children out for a drive, telling friends that he was taking them on vacation. Soon after, he shot his son and daughter, then told police that he had been the victim of a carjacking. He later confessed to the killings.

How Firearm(s) Acquired

The firearm was illegal. Spicknall was able to buy the handgun even though his wife had obtained a restraining order against him. The pistol was purchased from a pawn shop in College Park, Maryland, on September 2, 1999. Under federal law, anyone who has a domestic violence restraining order is prohibited from possessing firearms. However, because of a backlog in the Maryland police computer system, Spicknall's name did not come up during a background check.


  1. Craig Whitlock, "Lapses in Gun Check Decried; Legislators Scold Md. Police Agencies," The Washington Post, 23 November 1999.
  2. Brian M. Schleter "Family, Friends Remember Slain Children," The Capital, 15 September 1999, sec. A, p. 1.
  3. Lawyers for Spicknall Seek CT Scan, Gag Order," Associated Press, 15 September 1999.
  4. Raja Mishra, "Outpouring of Affection for Slain Children; Family and Friends Say Goodbye to Boy and Girl Believed Killed by Their Father," The Washington Post, 15 September 1999, sec. B, p. 3.
  5. Christopher Thorne, "Father Confesses to Shooting Children, One Fatally," Associated Press, 10 September 1999.


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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.