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The sale of a gun used by a felon to kill a 13-year-old Utah girl and wound two sheriff's deputies in Washington state earlier this year highlights the ambiguities associated with private firearms transactions.

Anthony A. Martinez already had at least three felony convictions when he purchased the .40-caliber Glock from a former Utah police cadet, according to Utah court records and documents released by prosecutors in Kitsap, Wash.

The felonies prevented Martinez from buying a gun from a licensed dealer. But the law gets trickier when there's a transaction between two individuals.

Private parties selling guns are not required to conduct a background check on the buyer. But if the seller knows the buyer is prohibited from possessing a firearm, or reasonably should know, then the seller just committed a felony under federal law.

There is no evidence the sale to Martinez was illegal, nor was there evidence anyone was investigating.

The man who sold Martinez the gun, Annon Sharp, did not return messages seeking comment.

A spokesman for the Washington State Police, Bob Calkins, said he was unaware of any investigation into the sale, but referred questions to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. An ATF spokesman in Denver did not return a call for comment.

Last year, Martinez was charged in Utah with kidnapping Astrid Valdivia, 13.

On Jan. 23, in Kitsap County, Wash., sheriff's deputies discovered the pair at a Walmart store.

Martinez, 31, used the Glock to wound two deputies. During the shootout, according to an investigation, Martinez also shot and killed Astrid, then killed himself.

The gun's history was recounted in documents released last week by prosecutors in Kitsap and first reported by the Kitsap Sun. The ATF found the pistol was first purchased by Jake Boehme, who is now a police officer in Logan.

Boehme sold the gun in 2004 to Sharp, who was a cadet with Boehme but did not graduate from the academy, according to documents. Boehme did not respond to requests for an interview Friday.

Sharp told the ATF he sold Martinez the gun in December 2007 or January 2008, according to the documents. The two worked together at the Gossner Foods dairy plant in Logan. Sharp told the ATF he knew Martinez only as "Tony" and sold the Glock for $650.

Utah court records show Martinez had three felony drug convictions in 2004 and 2005. Mitch Vilos, a Utah attorney who specializes in criminal cases involving firearms, said prosecutors would have to show Sharp had knowledge of Martinez's criminal history or that there were other obvious suspicious circumstances of the sale, such as Martinez wanting to meet at a secluded location and paying far above market value for the gun.

"I have not seen many cases like that," Vilos said, adding that such illegal sales are difficult to prove.

Want to sell a gun legally and safely?

Lt. Doug Anderson with the Utah Bureau of Criminal Identification encourages anyone wanting to sell a gun to sell it on consignment through a licensed dealer. The dealer will be required to conduct a background check on the buyer but the seller can still collect the money.

"The person who buys it knows it's not stolen. The person who's selling knows they're not selling to a restricted person, and everyone's happy," Anderson said.