Summarized by Kent Larsen
U.S. Gun Zealot Alters U.K. Law
Salt Lake Tribune 8May00 D2
By Kevin Cantera: Salt Lake Tribune
ENGLAND -- More than 25 years after earning a notorious spot in LDS
history for the murder of two LDS missionaries, Robert Elmer Kleasen
has earned a spot in English history, inducing the country to
strengthen its already stringent gun laws. English officals will now
do an Interpol background check on any foreign national that wishes
to purchase firearms there.
Police officials in England were shocked last Octoberr to discover a
cache of legal and illegal firearms in Kleasen's home in
Barton-upon-Humber. They were more shocked when they discovered
Kleasen's notorious past, including his two-years in prison on death
row in Texas for the murder of two LDS missionaries. Kleasen was
released after a search warrant used to discover evidence against him
was ruled illegal.
Following his release from death row, Kleasen served 12 years in
prison in New York for previous weapons violations. While in prison,
he began a pen-pal friendship with an English woman, Marie, and when
he was released in September 1990, Kleasen went to live with her in
Barton-upon-Humber, England, and married her.
But their relationship soured last year and Marie called police after
Kleasen threatened her. Kleasen has managed to get dozens of licenses
for firearms through friendly chatting with local police and
impressing them with a fabricated military background.
But the case caught the eye of British Home Secretary Jack Straw, who
oversees the department of the British government that is similar to
the U.S. Justice Department. Straw has since instituted a number of
changes designed to keep residents from amassing guns. But most
important, the changes keep foreigners from getting guns without an
Interpol background check.
"What has changed since the Kleasen case is that police will now do
an Interpol background check on all foreign nationals who request a
firearms permit," said Home Office spokeswoman Linda Martin. "British
citizens returning from abroad will be subject to the same background
check." Local police can then deny a permit to those with a criminal
Member of Parliament Shona McIsaac, who represents the district where
Kleasen lives, is pleased with the change. "I am not happy that
somebody with Kleasen's background was free to acquire more and more
firearms," McIsaac told The Salt Lake Tribune. "But I am glad that as
a result of the Kleasen case, gun laws in England have been tightened
. . . I am very anti-gun."
Kleasen's fabrications have embarrassed police in Humberside, where
he obtained many of the permits. "He told us that [President Dwight]
Eisenhower gave him a..........Medal of Honor for shooting down so
many MiGs during the [Korean] War. We were quite proud of him," said
Tony Fox, president and police liaison of the Killingholme Full Bore
Rifle Club, which eventually kicked Kleasen out.
Kleasen managed to join at least three local gun clubs, but his
relationships there soured as he became known for a nasty and quick
temper. "We called him Odd Bob," Fox recalled. "He was this massive,
300-pound man who resembled a cornered gorilla when he got mad. . . .
Frankly, we did not want someone like that in the club."
"He talked his way into the firearms department and got what he
wanted. He had good connections with the police. He played the part
of the decorated American war hero perfectly." Police eventually gave
him permits to possess up to 40 firearms. "There appears to have been
a serious lack of inquiry [by Humberside police]," McIsaac said.
Kleasen's history is now the subject of a new book, "Evil Among Us:
The Texas Mormon Missionary Murders" which was just released. And the
recent notoriety has even lead Austin, Texas authorities to
re-examine the case against Kleasen for the 1974 murders of the two
LDS missionaries. Police are trying to see if they can use recent DNA
technology to convict Kleasen of the murders.