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Man charged with selling guns used by supremacist

Published: Wednesday, July 7 1999 12:00 a.m. MDT

PEORIA, Ill. (AP) -- A man was charged Wednesday with illegally selling guns used by a white supremacist who went on a deadly shooting spree.

Donald R. Fiessinger, 64, of the central Illinois town of Pekin, was scheduled to appear in federal court Wednesday afternoon on charges that he sold the guns to Benjamin Smith without a license, according to Sharon Paul, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office in Springfield. She had no further information on the case.Smith, 21, killed himself Sunday as police tried to arrest him, ending a string of shootings in Illinois and Indiana from Friday to Sunday that killed two people and wounded nine others -- all of them black, Jewish or of Asian descent.

Fiessinger had been under investigation for illegal gun sales before the shooting spree, according to Jerry Singer, special agent for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in Chicago.

The guns allegedly sold to Smith last month were among "dozens of guns" that Fiessinger is charged with selling illegally, Singer said.

Smith had been rejected by a regular gun dealer last month because a background check showed that an ex-girlfriend who says he had abused her had taken out a protection order against him. He obtained the guns illegally just days before the rampage began, authorities said.

Smith's experience and the devastation he wrought has renewed the debate over gun control just weeks after Congress considered -- but did not agree on -- new restrictions.

"This unfortunately hits home the point that we have to start regulating the secondary market as well," including gun shows, unlicensed gun dealers and sales over the Internet, said Lisa Morel Las, the director of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence.

The arguments echo those in the wake of the April massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado and the recent debate in Congress: Gun control activists say the case demonstrates the inadequacy of the nation's gun laws, while the gun lobby says the problem is lax enforcement.

Lt. Dave Sanders, a spokesman for the Illinois State Police, said the state issued Smith the gun owner's ID card June 18. That background check didn't turn up the protection order because the order had Smith's middle initial and other details wrong.

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