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Mar. 21 2010 - 10:56 pm | 597 views | 1 recommendation | 8 comments

Man caught with 150 guns documented previous ‘nightmare’ of gun hoarding, involuntary commitment

Interesting enough story from three separate Pittsburgh news outlets this morning (including Trib Total Media, where I’m a staff writer) about a guy named Russell Laing, 52, who was found with 150 guns in his suburban Pittsburgh apartment after local officers “got a call from someone requesting an ambulance.”

From the Trib:

[Laing] faces several felony charges, including four counts of terroristic threats, two counts of aggravated assault and two counts of reckless endangerment, McCandless police Chief Gary Anderson said.

Anderson said police got a call from someone requesting an ambulance to come the Presidential Arms apartment complex, 9815 Presidential Drive, about 1 a.m. yesterday. When officers arrived, they found the door to the third-floor unit slightly ajar.

Officers called out the name of the man inside, got no answer and went in. Inside, they found a man seated on a couch with an assault rifle in his hands.

“He cocked it in front of the officers,” Anderson said. “At that moment, their safety was at risk.”

The officers left the apartment and dispatched Allegheny County police for help. A SWAT team came to the scene to try to convince the man to come out.

Authorities removed the man from the apartment just after 5 a.m.

But despite loaded sentences like, “Police say they were familiar with Laing, but would not elaborate on how,” apparently either 1) no one thought to Google the guy’s name or look him up on the local UJS portal of magisterial docket sheets, or 2) my standards for investigation are low and bloggy. Regardless, it turns out the guy has a bit of a past. Behold “The Russel [sic] Laing Story” from the Gun Owners Alliance:

Today my gun collection still sits, I suppose, in the garage of the WDPD where they placed it after stealing it from my home. They refused to answer a certified letter sent in October 1997 to provide a lawfully required listing of the property they had taken from my home. During the course of my petition to vacate/expunge my 302 record, they filed a cleverly worded statement with the court implying that they could not open the gun safe that they dragged out of my home (how did they know it had/has guns in it?)…even though I personally¬† unlocked it for them after they threatened to destroy it.¬† But my story is not about the illegal and outrageous actions of a few local police officers who deviated from the honorable and trustworthy profession of law enforcement. My story is about legislation which was passed unanimously by Pennsylvania legislators which actually writes into law provisions that deliberately circumvent the PA and United State’s constitutionally provided right to due process under the law…so that just about anyone can “cry-witch” against any lawful abiding gun owner, as was done to me, and take their right to own firearms, their lawfully owned valuable property, their personalliberty, and their reputation with less due process than would be need to assess a parking fine!

The gist here is that according to Laing himself, this exact same “Officers Find Ridiculous Amount Of Guns Inside Apartment” situation happened in April 1996. Despite having been involuntarily committed to a mental institution (that’s a “302” here in Allegheny County), Laing was later allowed to become a legal gun owner.

Some interesting unanswered questions remain: Who made the call “requesting an ambulance” in this recent gun hoarding scenario? And why? And what sort of event was Laing experiencing when he decided to open his front door “slightly” and “cock” his assault rifle in front of police officers?

If previous literature is any indication, I’m guessing this is not the last we’ll hear from Russell Laing (who also has some other interesting drug and prostitution related charges that have been withdrawn from his record (PDF)).


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  1. collapse expand

    Your slant on this story is not quite that accurate and reveals a bias that is not necessary. The circumstances of the initial problems between Russell Laing and the police were totally blown out of proportion. The BATF clearly stated that Russell had never violated the law and had his rights to own firearms assured by them. This latest issue, I suspect is also blown out of proportion thanks to an exaggerating news media and police. The facts in this case will come out, just as it did in the first case.

  2. collapse expand

    Dear p40fan,

    May I take a leap of faith here and guess from your handle that you are not a fan of warhawks but the fine handgun? If so that might suggest some bias on your part, but that aside are you saying that the 302 event did not happen or that is doesn’t matter if the man has some mental issues? Or that he didn’t cock his gun when the police entered. Now that part of the story surprised me because here in Los Angeles backing your car up near a police officer is punishable by every cop in the neighborhood emptying his gun into the car and whoever is in it, so here the man would be dead. Now I suppose a man is entitled to confuse liberty with firearms just as there are those who confuse justice with murder but if I were the neighbor of this man I would at least hope the weapons were secured what with what’s its like getting up in the middle of the night to piss all groggy like and stumbling through and over your collection and maybe tipping over your .50 Bushmaster and putting a hole through 3 or 4 apartments where someone like me might be up for that midnight alka selser to keep the vodka down. But anyway…you seem to know the case maybe you can fill us in on the inaccuracies besides the fact that the man can legally call an armory an apartment.

    • collapse expand

      Actually I am a fan of the P40 Warhawk aircraft.

      A judge ruled some years ago that the individual in this case was not involuntarily confident for mental health reasons. This became a huge case in the state of PA and forced some changes in the state laws, as well as a severe reprimand of a county assistant DA that was continuing to defy a judge over the return of all the legal firearms in the earlier case.

      I think that we have a gross over reaction by the local police after the cop shooting case from last year. The media is hyperventilating over a guy that is a fairly passive guy.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
      • collapse expand

        Thank you for clearing that up and the warhawk was quite a durable piece of hardware…someone should do a movie about the flying tigers. However legal or not 150 weapons in an apartment is a bit much.

        In response to another comment. See in context »
        • collapse expand

          There have been some films and documentaries on the History Channel about the Flying Tigers, as well as the P40 models that were used in China, Burma and India against the Japanese. The P40s served the British in North Africa well in a ground attack/fighter-bomber role and were the first planes used by the Tuskegee Airman when they deployed to Italy.

          Having a high number of legally purchased firearms may be questionable, but it is still quite legal. Especially since most were in locked gun cabinets and safes. Some people collect cars, others collect coins and some collect old firearms. That is the case with this guy that has some arms to which no ammunition has been manufactured for decades.

          In response to another comment. See in context »
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    The Prison Dilemma is a collection of links and other stuff I stumble across while writing and reporting for the Innocence Institute of Point Park University -- an organization that investigates claims of wrongful conviction in Pennsylvania's State Correctional Institutions. If you have tips, thoughts, ideas, requests -- or if you know someone with a wrongful conviction claim -- contact me here:

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