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Biden, left. Law enforcement officials, right. Drew Angerer/Getty Images and ANDY JACOBSOHN/AFP via Getty Images.
The British man who took four people hostage in a Texas synagogue was able to get a gun within two weeks of being in the United States and may have got one almost immediately after landing.
On Saturday morning, Malik Faisal Akram, 44, stormed the Sabbath service at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas. Armed with a handgun, he held four people, including the rabbi, Charlie Cytron-Walker, hostage for more than 10 hours.
Akram was shot dead when a SWAT team entered the building, and all four hostages were rescued unharmed.
President Joe Biden suggested lax American gun laws played a part in allowing a British citizen to purchase a gun so soon after landing in the U.S. Biden said U.S. authorities are still gathering facts, but it is believed Akram purchased the weapon “on the street” shortly after he arrived.
“The idea of background checks are critical,” said Biden. “But you can’t stop something like this if someone is on the street buying something from somebody else on the street. Except that there’s too—there’s so many guns that have been sold of late; it’s just ridiculous.”
“And it’s because of the failure of us to focus as hard as we should and as consistent as we should on gun purchases, gun sales, ghost guns, and a whole range of things that I’m trying to do.”
While it’s unknown exactly when the gunman purchased the weapon or how long he carried it with him, Texas has some of the loosest gun control laws in the U.S. Just last year, the state passed a law allowing firearm owners to carry a handgun without a license or training.
It’s been reported that Akram flew into New York in late December. Reportedly, he picked the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue due to its close proximity to where Aafia Siddiqui, an Al-Qaeda affiliated woman, is serving 86 years in prison for attacking U.S. military personnel. The FBI said Akram ranted about Siddiqui throughout the hostage-taking and demanded to meet with her.
The incident is being investigated as “terror-related” by U.S. authorities.
UK authorities have arrested two teenagers in connection to the situation. They have not been charged.
In a statement, Akram’s family said Akram was “suffering from mental health issues,” but were “confident that he would not harm the hostages.” The family apologized profusely to the victims. A brother of Akram, speaking to the English press, asked how this could have happened.
"He's known to police, got a criminal record,” he said. “How was he allowed to get a visa and acquire a gun?”
The synagogue was livestreaming its service, which means, for a time, people could tune in and watch the situation as it unfolded.
“If anyone tries to enter this building, I’m telling you… everyone will die,” Akram could be heard saying on the stream.
Cytron-Walker cited “security courses” the congregation received from the ADL, FBI, and local police as one of the reasons no hostages were harmed.
“We are alive today because of that education,” Cytron-Walker said in a statement.
“In the last hour of our hostage crisis, the gunman became increasingly belligerent and threatening. Without the instruction we received, we would not have been prepared to act and flee when the situation presented itself.”
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