By Michael Isikoff
NBC News National Investigative Correspondent
Accused Tucson shooter Jared Lee Loughner was rejected by the U.S. Army in Dec. 2008 after he admitted that he was a drug user, not because he failed a drug test, an Army official said on Monday.
Loughner was questioned by an Army recruiter as part of a standard screening process for all recruits, said U.S. Army spokesman Gary Tallman. When he admitted being a drug user, Loughner was turned down and never underwent a urinalysis or other drug test, contrary to published reports.
"It never got that far," Tallman said. "He was denied entry and was never a recruit." Tallman said he had no information on whether Loughner admitted what kinds of drugs he used.
Loughner's past drug use as well as his mental health are getting attention from gun control proponents, who are questioning his ability to legally purchase the semi-automatic Glock 19 purchase that he allegedly used to shoot Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and U.S. District Judge John Roll on Saturday. An aide to New York City Michael Bloomberg, who organized a group called Mayors Against Illegal Guns, said the group is examining ways to tighten federal gun laws to prohibit drug abusers and individuals with mental health problems from legally purchasing weapons.
Although drug "addicts" or "unlawful" drug users are currently barred by law from buying a gun, the standards are vague and enforcement sporadic. The number of persons denied purchases on those grounds are tiny. Among states such as Arizona that conduct their own background checks, only four people were specifically turned down for drug use between 2001 and 2008, according to FBI figures. (Thousands more were turned down for criminal convictions, which may have included drug sales or possession.)
Arizona court records show that Loughner was arrested on a misdemeanor drug paraphernalia charge in 2007, but the charges were dropped after he underwent a diversion program. He has also been described by former friends and classmates as a "pot smoker," although there are no indications he used other drugs. He had a later charge in 2008 for graffiti, the Arizona Republic reported.
NBC's chief Pentagon correspondent, Jim Miklaszewski, has more in the interview below:
Army officials say that they rejected Jared Loughner's enlistment application because he admitted using marijuana hundreds of times. NBC's Jim Miklaszewski has the details.