Gun Laws & Legislation

FLASHBACK: Anti-gun lawmaker who brandished borrowed AK-47 once ‘lost’ 2 semi-automatic weapons police loaned him

David Martosko Executive Editor
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Virginia Delegate Joseph Morrissey, who became infamous online last week when he brandished an AK-47 during his anti-gun speech before the state legislature, once told a judge he “lost or misplaced” two semiautomatic assault-style weapons that he had borrowed from a state police forensic lab.

“I don’t think you should be able to possess an assault rifle,” Morrissey told ABC News on Friday.

But the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported in April 1994 that the arrest of a heroin dealer led police to discover an Uzi submachine gun that was supposed to be under Morrissey’s control.

That gun, along with two other semiautomatic weapons — a TEC-9 capable of firing 72 rounds without reloading, and another unspecified rifle — were among four weapons Morrissey used as props when he discussed drugs and violence at schools, and during civic meetings.

The suspected drug dealer “was arrested in Richmond … and the gentleman had a storage locker rented to himself in Chesterfield County,” State Police Special Agent Anita Derby told the Times-Dispatch then. “A search warrant was conducted on the storage locker and that’s where the gun was found.”

The Uzi and the TEC-9 disappeared after police loaned them to Morrissey in May 1991. He said in 1994 that the firearms had been missing since at least December 1992,when Virginia Department of Forensic Science director Paul Ferrara asked for their safe return.

Although Morrissey said he believed the Uzi and the TEC-9 were stolen from his office, sources inside the former prosecutor’s office told the Times-Dispatch in August 1993 that he never reported them missing.

At the time, Morrissey’s office told the newspaper that the third rifle was accounted for.

Morrissey did not respond to an email seeking comment Monday evening. He has said the AK-47 he held aloft Thursday in the Virginia Statehouse was a borrowed weapon, but he has not elaborated on its origin. (RELATED: Anti-gun Va. lawmaker who brandished AK-47 in legislature was disbarred after brutal 1999 assault)

In April 1993, the judge who allowed the crime lab to loan Morrissey the guns ordered him to produce the firearms and explain what happened to them.

The guns, Morrissey told Circuit Judge Thomas N. Nance, apparently were “either lost or misplaced,” according to the Times-Dispatch.

Morrissey, the newspaper reported, was accustomed to keeping the three semiautomatic weapons and a “street-sweeper” shotgun in a green, zippered canvas bag on the back seat of his car, which was often unlocked.

“Detectives assigned to the office often found the bag and locked it in the trunk of the car,” accoding to the Times-Dispatch.

Ferrara’s office reclaimed the Uzi after police retrieved it from the drug-distribution suspect, but never saw the other loaner gun again.

“I was glad to get at least one of them back,” he said in 1994. “To my knowledge the other weapon … is still God knows where.”

Ferrara, a pioneer in the use of DNA to solve cold-case crimes, retured in 2006 and died in 2011.

His office first inquired about the weapons after Morrissey Morrissey stepped down from his job as a Richmond, Va. Commonwealth’s Attorney. That resignation followed Morrissey’s indictment on charges of bribery, perjury and misuse of public funds.

Morrissey prevailed in the 2003 bribery trial, where he was accused of allowing a rapist’s father to pay $50,000 — half to the victim and half to a list of charities Morrissey chose — in exchange for reducing the criminal charge to a misdemeanor.

Four of those charities, The Washington Post later reported, were churches in African-American communities where Morrissey had worked hard to build political support.

Despite his acquittal, a three-judge panel later suspended his law license for six months in a hearing related to his handling of the rape case.

Prosecutors ultimately withdrew the perjury indictment, and a Richmond judge dismissed the remaining corruption charge in December 1993. That case hinged on claims that Morrissey ordered employees in his Commonwealth’s Attorney office to perform political work for his ultimately unsuccessful re-election campaign.

The Daily Caller reported Sunday that Morrissey was found guilty in 2002 of committing a vicious 1999 assault during which he threatened the life of his victim. His legal career has been pock-marked with disciplinary findings, including six months in jail for contempt of a federal court and the 2003 revocation of his Virginia law license.

That license was restored in December 2011.

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