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Image: FBI agents at shooting scene
Rick Wilking  /  Reuters
FBI agents enter the shooting scene in Tucson on Tuesday.
NBC News and news services
updated 1/11/2011 10:45:10 PM ET 2011-01-12T03:45:10

The suspect in Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' shooting wrote the words "Die, bitch" on a note found in his home, a sheriff's official said Tuesday.

Pima County Chief Rick Kastigar told The Associated Press that authorities believe the note was a reference to Giffords. It was found alongside other menacing notes including "I planned ahead," "My assassination" and the name "Giffords."

Authorities are learning other new information about the events leading up to the assassination attempt.

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    11. Topics: More stories, videos on tragedy in Tucson

Sheriff Clarence Dupnik told the AP that on the morning of the shooting, Jared Loughner's father saw his son take a black bag out of a car trunk.

The sheriff said the father approached Loughner, and he mumbled something and took off running. The father got in his truck and chased his son into the desert as he fled on foot.

Loughner took a taxi cab to the supermarket where the three-term Democrat was holding a meeting to hear the concerns of her constituents.

The revelations came on the same day investigators told NBC News that shell casings recovered at the scene of Saturday's mass shooting confirmed the Glock-wielding gunman fired 31 times using the semiautomatic pistol.

And Bloomberg News reported that pistol sales soared in Arizona on Monday. Citing FBI data, Bloomberg said one-day sales of handguns in Arizona for Jan. 10 were 263 — 60 percent higher than on the corresponding Monday a year ago.

Six people were killed, including U.S. District Judge John Roll and 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green. Giffords and 12 other people were shot during the rampage outside a Safeway supermarket.

Loughner, 22, is charged with one count of attempted assassination of a member of Congress, two counts of killing an employee of the federal government and two counts of attempting to kill a federal employee.

Story: Arizona shooting victims
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Troubled suspect
Loughner had trouble with the law, was rejected by the Army after admitting to drug use and was considered so mentally unstable that he was banned from his college campus, where officials considered him a threat to other students and faculty.

But Loughner had no trouble buying the Glock semiautomatic pistol that authorities say he used in the rampage.

Video: Tucson massacre prompts changes

Loughner's personal history did not disqualify him under federal rules, and Arizona doesn't regulate gun sales. His criminal charges were ultimately dismissed, the Army information was private and Pima Community College isn't saying whether it shared its concerns about Loughner with anyone besides his parents.

Loughner cleared a federal background check and bought the pistol at a big-box sports store near his home on Nov. 30 — two months after he was suspended by the college. He customized the weapon with an extended ammunition clip that would have been illegal six years earlier.

Investigators told NBC News that Loughner had a 30-round magazine on his Glock-19, plus one round in the chamber, for a total of 31 rounds in the weapon. Of the 31 rounds, a least 20 struck those outside the Tucson supermarket. Some victims were struck by more than one round.

Video: Loughner's parents: 'We are so very sorry' (on this page)

It was not clear whether Loughner was able to put the second magazine into the Glock, investigators said. An examination of the second magazine showed that its spring was defective, so it would not have functioned properly, NBC News reported.

Witnesses said they grabbed the magazine as Loughner tried to load the gun.

“The reason he was able to be tackled was he had to pause to reload,” Dennis Henigan, vice president of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, told The New York Times. “The problem is, he didn’t have to pause to reload until he’d already expended 30 rounds.”

Loughner purchased a Glock from a Sportsman's Warehouse in November. He reportedly bought his ammunition at a Walmart store just hours before the shooting. He tried to buy ammunition from one Walmart, but left before completing the transaction, according to the company. He then reportedly purchased bullets from a nearby Walmart.

Glock owners, sales
Outside Sportsman's Warehouse, the cavernous store where Loughner purchased his Glock, gun owner Jason Moats said that "the bad guys can get the guns either way." He suggested that the shootings could have been less tragic had there been one more weapon out there, rather than one less.

Video: Will Loughner plead insanity? (on this page)

Glock pistol sales surged in the aftermath of the shootings, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday.

Karen Seaman, chief marketing officer for Sportsman's Warehouse, said Loughner passed a federal background check required to buy a gun.

According to online FBI data, the government conducted about 124 million background checks between Nov. 30, 1998 and Dec. 31, 2010. Of those, 821,000 — a fraction of 1 percent — were rejected.

Video: Green family showing 'enormous strength' (on this page)

Background checks are designed in part to weed out prospective gun buyers who have felony criminal records, have a history of domestic violence or are in the country illegally. None of that applied to Loughner, although the background check form asks about drug use and friends say he frequently used marijuana in high school.

Citations, rejections
In October 2007, Loughner was cited in Pima County for possession of drug paraphernalia, which was dismissed after he completed a diversion program, according to online records.

Loughner was arrested in October 2008 on a vandalism charge near Tucson after admitting that he vandalized a road sign with a magic marker, scrawling the letters "C" and "X" in what he said was a reference to Christianity. The police report said Loughner admitted other acts of vandalism in the area. The case was ultimately dismissed after he completed a diversion program.

A military official in Washington said the Army rejected Loughner in 2008 because he failed a drug test. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because privacy laws prevent the military from disclosing such information about an individual's application.

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Last year, Pima Community College police were called in five times to deal with Loughner's classroom and library disruptions. He was suspended from the college in September after campus police discovered a YouTube video in which Loughner claimed the college was illegal according to the U.S. Constitution. School officials told Loughner and his parents that to return to classes he would need to undergo a mental health exam to show he was not a danger.

A college spokesman did not respond to an e-mail asking if the college had referred any information on Loughner to local police.

On Nov. 30, the same day he bought the Glock, Loughner posted a YouTube video that raged against the college and police.

"If the police remove you from the educational facility for talking then removing you from the educational facility for talking is unconstitutional," he wrote on the video. "The situation is fraud because the police are unconstitutional. ... Every Pima Community College class is always a scam!"

Federal law bars gun ownership for people who've been judged dangerously mentally ill by a court and those who have been committed to a mental institution, thresholds that didn't disqualify Loughner. Less than 1 percent of the federal government's background-check rejections involved mental-health issues, according to the records.

Video: Tucson's tragedy hits close to home (on this page)

"It's not easy to draw that line" of when a person's mental illness should disqualify them from owning a weapon, said Michael J. Fitzpatrick, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, an advocacy group.

"The reality is most people with mental illness are not violent," he said. "The issue, frankly, is getting people into treatment. It's not about guns."

In other developments Tuesday:

NBC News correspondent Pete Williams, msnbc.com staff and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

© 2013 msnbc.com

Video: Doctor: Giffords appears to be defying odds

  1. Closed captioning of: Doctor: Giffords appears to be defying odds

    >>> in tucson ."

    >>> good evening from tucson , arizona . we're here outside university medical center where congresswoman gabby giffords is recovering along with some of the other victims of saturday's shooting. we have a number of new developments including her condition and a new phase she's entering in her treatment and recovery. the stories continue to come out and so many are so sad. many of them are inspiring though as we learn more about those affected, those who lived. those who died. we've just heard from the family of the troubled young man being held for this mass murder . we want to begin with nbc's lester holt who is on opposite side of the hospital complex tonight. lester, good evening.

    >> reporter: brian, good evening. congresswoman giffords is said to be holding her own. the doctors say no further brain swelling and right now it appears she continues to defy the odds.

    >> when she starts to become mobile --

    >> the surgeon treating congress woman giffords is as blunt as he is encouraged by her condition.

    >> she has no right to look this good given the type of injury. so many people do so poorly after this kind of penetrating injury to the brain.

    >> reporter: the dr. michael lemole said giffords has flashed a thumb's up to breathe unassisted. but the road ahead is still unknown.

    >> this is the frustrating thing about this kind of injury. for us as physicians, for the family and patient it comes at its own course over months and longer.

    >> bill heileman's wife, suzys had taken her neighbor, to meet the congresswoman. suzy was shot several times and underwent more surgery today. christina was killed.

    >> what kinds of things has she expressed?

    >> the initial horror upon realization that bullets were being fired and cars were not backfiring which they had before they were hit. the eyes of the man who was doing it, which will be emblazed in her memory forever. the realization that, indeed, they were hit. her crying out, christina , christina , let's run, let's run, had her by the hand and then her very, very vivid memories of being on the ground bleeding profusely, thinking she was dying.

    >> arizona 's governor voiced the collective mood.

    >> there's no way to measure what tucson and all of arizona lost in that moment. the statistics, six dead, 14 wounded, in no way explain the depth of this tragedy.

    >> reporter: a depth it seems no one here can escape.

    >> where this occurred was a mere few miles from where i live. and we shop at that safeway. so, yes, this hit home very, very deeply.

    >> reporter: late today, the arizona senate voted to ban a group from picketing the funeral of christina taylor green. it's the same group that's protested some u.s. military funerals that protection is extended to the funerals of all victims and, brian, the house here in arizona is expected to pass that bill and the governor to quickly sign it.

    >> imagine that, amid all our talk about the political discourse in the country. lester holt on the other side of this hospital complex here tonight.

Photos: Former Ariz. Representative Gabrielle Giffords

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  1. Gabrielle Giffords, the former congresswoman who was shot and left handicapped after a gunman opened fire at an event in Tucson, Ariz., and her husband retired Navy Capt. Mark Kelly prepare to testify before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on gun violence in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 2013. (Jim Lo Scalzo / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, leave the Newtown Municipal Building in Newtown, Conn. on Jan. 4, 2013. Giffords met with Newtown officials on Friday afternoon before heading to visit with families of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. (Michelle Mcloughlin / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Gabrielle Giffords waves to the Space Shuttle Endeavor with her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly as it flies over Tucson, Ariz. on its way to Los Angeles, on Sept. 20, 2012. Kelly served as Endeavour's last space commander months after Giffords survived serious head injuries because of a 2011 shooting. (P.K. Weis / Southwest Photo Bank via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Gabrielle Giffords blows a kiss after reciting the Pledge of Allegiance during the final session of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. on Sept. 6, 2012. (Eric Thayer / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Gabrielle Giffords stands on top of a peak in the French Alps with her husband Mark Kelly, right,, and mountain guide Vincent Lameyre, July 23, 2012. On her first trip out of the country since her injury in 2011, she rode a two-stage cable car to a station for spectacular views of Mont Blanc. (Denis Balibouse / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Ron Barber, right, celebrates his victory with Giffords, left, prior to speaking to supporters at a post election event, Tuesday, June 12, 2012, in Tucson, Ariz. Barber, Giffords' former district director, won her seat in a special election after she resigned to focus on her recovery. (Ross D. Franklin / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Democratic Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, read Rep. Gabriell Giffords resignation speech on the House floor on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2012. The day after President Obama's State of the Union speech, Giffords formally offered her resignation to Speaker John Boehner. Weeping, Shultz applauded the strength of her friend and colleague, "I'm so proud of my friend." (MSNBC) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. President Barack Obama hugs retiring Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords as the president arrives to deliver his State of the Union address on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012. (Pool / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., left, and Pelosi, right, posing with Giffords husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly of the Navy, at his retirement ceremony with Vice President Joe Biden in the Old Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2011. (House Leader Nancy Pelosi's office / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords returns to the House for the first time since she was shot, making a dramatic entrance on Monday, Aug. 1, 2011, during a crucial debt vote. She drew loud applause and cheers from surprised colleagues. (NBC News) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords poses for a photo the day after the launch of NASA space shuttle Endeavour and the day before she had her cranioplasty surgery, outside TIRR Memorial Hermann Hospital May 17, in Houston, Texas. Aides of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords posted two recent photos of the congresswoman to her public Facebook page, the first since the January 8 shooting that killed six people and wounded a dozen others. (P.K. Weis / Giffords Campaign / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Emergency workers use a stretcher to move Rep. Gabrielle Giffords after she was shot in the head outside a shopping center in Tucson, Ariz., on Saturday, Jan. 8, 2011. (James Palka / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. In this Jan. 5, 2011 file photo, House Speaker John Boehner re-enacts the swearing in of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Susan Walsh / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Rep. Giffords, left, speaks during a candidates debate with Republican candidate Jesse Kelly at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Ariz., on Oct. 18, 2010. Kelly is an Iraq War veteran and was the Tea Party favorite for the 8th congressional district seat. (Joshua Lott / The New York Times via Redux Pictures) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords meets with constituents in Douglas, Ariz., in 2010. Giffords, 40, took office in January 2007, emphasizing issues such as immigration reform, embryonic stem-cell research, alternative energy sources and a higher minimum wage. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Rep. Giffords speaks during a press conference in Washington, D.C., where members of Congress called on the President to secure the border with the National Guard on April 28, 2010. (James Berglie / Zuma Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. This picture provided by the office of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords on Monday, March 22, 2010, shows damage to her office in Tucson, Ariz. The congressional office was vandalized a few hours after the House vote overhauling the nation's health care system. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., center, gives a tour of Statuary Hall in the Capitol to Shuttle Discovery STS-124 astronauts Mission Specialist Akihiko Hoshide, of Japan, and her husband, Commander Mark Kelly, on Thursday, July 17, 2008. (Bill Clark / Roll Call Photos) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. From right. Rep. Ken Calvert, Rep. Dennis Moore, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and Rep. Heath Shuler, attend a House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security hearing on current and proposed employment eligibility verification systems on May 6, 2008. The hearing provided a forum for lawmakers on both sides of the immigration debate, focusing on a system to verify the legal status of workers and job applicants. (Scott J. Ferrell) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Gabrielle Giffords with U.S. Navy Cmdr. Mark Kelly, a NASA astronaut, at their wedding in Amado, Ariz., on Nov. 10, 2007. Kelly's twin brother, also an astronaut, is a commander on the International Space Station. "We have a unique vantage point here aboard the International Space Station. As I look out the window, I see a very beautiful planet that seems very inviting and peaceful. Unfortunately, it is not," said Scott Kelly of the tragedy that befell his sister-in-law. (Norma Jean Gargasz for The New York Times / Redux Pictures) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Representatives-elect including Dean Heller, top right, and Gabrielle Giffords, next to Heller, prepare for the freshman class picture for the 110th Congress on the House Steps on Nov. 14, 2006. (Tom Williams / Roll Call Photos) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords rides horseback in 2006. In an interview with NPR last year, she recalled working with horses during her adolescence in Tucson. "I loved cleaning out the stalls, and I did that in exchange for riding lessons. And I continue to ride most of my life. And I learned a lot from horses and the stable people ... I think it provided good training, all of that manure-shoveling, for my days in politics ahead." (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. A page entitled, "Just do it!" in La Semeuse, the Scripps College yearbook in 1993. The photo at right shows Giffords in traditional Mennonite clothing. That same year, she won a Fulbright award to study Mennonites and other Anabaptist groups in Northern Mexico. Gifford's senior thesis was titled "Wish Books and Felt-Tipped Fantasies: The Sociology of Old Colony Mennonite Drawings." (Scripps College) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Gabrielle Giffords' senior portrait from the 1993 Scripps College yearbook. Giffords double-majored in Latin American studies and sociology. A Dean's List student, Gifford won several awards during her time at Scripps. (Scripps College) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Gabrielle Giffords, right, laughs with her mom, Gloria Kay Fraser Giffords, in a photo published in the Scripps College yearbook. Gabrielle received a B.A. in Sociology and Latin American history from Scripps College in Claremont, Calif. in 1993. (Scripps College) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. University High School portrait of Gabrielle Giffords, class of 1988. Dr. John Hosmer, taught history to the future lawmaker. He tells msnbc.com, "Gabrielle sat in the front row. She was inquisitive ... She was a very mature person from the moment she walked in the door." (University High School) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image: US Senate holds hearing on Gun Control
    Jim Lo Scalzo / EPA
    Above: Slideshow (26) Former Ariz. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords
  2. Image:
    Morry Gash / AP
    Slideshow (45) Mourning follows deadly shooting in Arizona

Gallery: Tragedy in Tucson: The shooting victims

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