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Coming ‘close’ to stopping a massacre isn’t good enough

Robert Abell, co-owner of Lotus Gunworks, speaks to members of the media, Thursday, June 16 in front of his store in Jensen Beach, Fla. Abell told reporters that Pulse nightclub shooter Omar Mateen came in roughly five weeks before the nightclub shootings asking to buy body armor and about 1,000 rounds of ammunition. (AP)

He saw something; he said something. But the shooting happened anyway.

It appears that several weeks before buying the gun he used in the Orlando shooting, Omar Mateen had visited another gun shop. He was requesting body armor.

Shopping for body armor implies you’re probably not deer hunting or target shooting; you’re expecting to get shot at.

Photos: President Obama pays his respects to victims of Orlando shooting

Robert Abell, co-owner of Lotus Gunworks in Jensen Beach, says his clerk was immediately suspicious.

“Our salesman got very concerned about it and just informed him we do not have this body armor,” Abell said.

At which point the suspicious customer made a suspicious call.

“He pulled away and got on to his cellphone, he had a conversation in a foreign language. Then he came back and was requesting ammo.”

Bulk ammo. He wanted a thousand rounds. Now the clerk was really concerned. So he refused to sell him anything. No body armor, no bullets, no guns. The staff then called the FBI, which investigated, but nothing came of it. Of course, we now know that Mateen went on to buy a gun from a second dealer who readily sold it to him.

But those two gun shops are only 10 miles apart. What if, when a gun dealer meets a suspicious customer, he alerts the other gun shops in the area and says, “Hey, this guy came in asking for high-grade body armor. I have a bad feeling about him.”

Dealers could set up a private online watch list of their own! No new laws required! Robert Abell said it himself.

“We’re the watchdogs for them. And here’s a prime example of trying to do the right thing, and we go so close to it.”

It was a good try. Unfortunately, “close” isn’t good enough anymore.

Related: Guns are blameless in our ‘terrorist-friendly’ system

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