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Maj. Nidal Hasan seemed ignorant about handguns but sought “the most technologically advanced” available when he bought the semi-automatic pistol and armor-piercing ammunition he used months later to slaughter soldiers, witnesses testified Thursday.

And weeks before the attack, the Army psychiatrist bought a membership at a shooting range, took a concealed handgun course and sought coaching on hitting human targets from 100 yards away.

The eighth and final day of the prosecution’s presentation in Hasan’s Article 32 hearing focused on evidence intended to show that the gunman began preparing and practicing months before the Nov. 5 massacre. Such evidence of prior planning could be key if Army officials decide to seek the death penalty.

Defense lawyers have signaled that they will try to raise far broader questions about whether the Army and U.S. intelligence agencies knew that Hasan had long been a potential threat – and that they should have done more to prevent the attack. If Hasan were convicted, such a strategy could strengthen a defense argument that he should be sentenced to life in prison.

In Thursday’s testimony, a firearms instructor recounted how Hasan practiced repeatedly at Stan’s Outdoor Shooting Range south of Fort Hood last October. The instructor, John Choats, also testified that Hasan once sought help in long-distance shooting at targets shaped like human silhouettes.

After an afternoon of coaching, Choats recalled, Hasan’s shooting progressed from erratic to a tight pattern routinely hitting each target’s chest and head.

Source: Lee Hancock for The Dallas Morning News.

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