Gun owners got letters http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?articleID=20080820_12_A1_hOSBIa443762 By MANNY GAMALLO World Staff Writer 8/20/2008 Last Modified: 8/20/2008 2:20 AM OSBI agents went to gun dealers and pawnshops to create a list of .40-caliber Glock owners. WELEETKA — Authorities working to narrow their leads in the June 8 shooting deaths of two girls used old-fashioned legwork to come up with a list of area gun owners with .40-caliber pistols, one of two weapons used in the slayings. Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation agents knew the caliber of the guns used in the killings, so they merely checked with area gun dealers and pawnshops to determine who had bought or recently pawned .40-caliber Glocks. "It's a typical procedure of any investigation" involving a gun, according to Jessica Brown, spokeswoman for the OSBI. That time-consuming procedure yielded the OSBI the names of more than 60 owners of .40-caliber guns in the Weleetka area. Consequently, the OSBI sent letters to all those gun owners, asking them to voluntarily submit their weapons for test firings over the weekend at the Okfuskee County Courthouse at Okemah. About 40 of those gun owners showed up on Saturday and Sunday, and their weapons were fired once or twice and then returned to them. The fired bullets and shell casings, meanwhile, were sent to a crime lab for analysis to determine if any of them match those used in the slayings of Skyla Jade Whitaker, 11, and Taylor Paschal-Placker, 13. Brown said about five of the gun owners no longer owned the weapons, but they provided the names of the new owners. The other 15 or so gun owners who did not show up will be checked by the OSBI to see why they didn't volunteer for the test firings. "They can have any number of reasons" for not volunteering, Brown said. "They could be against it, they could be anti-government, or they eventually may want to help." Because the test firing of the weapons is voluntary, Brown said there isn't any constitutional violations involved. "It's a process of elimination," she said, noting that the tested weapons may have been loaned out by the owners or someone else may have had access to the guns. On Monday, when the OSBI announced that it had test-fired weapons, it stated in its press release that it had sent letters to the "registered gun owners." That prompted concern Tuesday among many in the public, who noted that Oklahoma does not have a gun-registry law nor a central database of gun owners. Tom Harris, an agent with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in Tulsa, confirmed that. According to Harris, most states, including Oklahoma, and the federal government do not have lists of registered gun owners. He said the only way to get a listing of gun owners is by canvassing gun dealers or pawnshops individually to find out who bought weapons — as the OSBI did. Harris said gun dealers — "federal firearms licensees" — have to fill out ATF form 4473 whenever a weapon is purchased. The form lists the buyer, the address and other pertinent information. They also have to contact the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to determine whether the prospective buyer can legally purchase a weapon. Harris said the 4473 forms stay with the gun dealers and are not submitted to any government agency. They are, however, available to law enforcement. If a gun dealer goes out of business, the 4473 forms are stored in an ATF warehouse, he said. Although the OSBI made public that a .40-caliber weapon was used in the slayings, it is not identifying the caliber of the other gun used. Brown would not say whether voluntary test firings would be held for the other weapon. Authorities believe the killers are from the Weleetka area, given the remote location of the girls' slayings. They said the killers had to be familiar with the area — N. 3890 Road (County Line Road) north of Coleman Road, about four miles northeast of Weleetka. Skyla was visiting Taylor at her home when they decided to go for a walk that Sunday afternoon. They walked north from Taylor's home along County Line Road to the Bad Creek bridge, a half-mile away. Investigators said the two had made it to the bridge and were returning to Taylor's home when they were gunned down. Their bodies were found in a shallow roadside ditch, less than 1,000 feet from the Placker home. They were found about 30 minutes after they had left for the walk. Autopsy reports on the girls showed they had been shot a total of 13 times. Skyla, the youngest, was shot eight times, and she suffered the most .40-caliber bullet wounds. Authorities noted that each of the girls was shot with two weapons. The medical examiner recovered spent bullets from their bodies and described them as small- and medium-sized.