The Aurora shooter left many questions in his wake

When John wrote about the mass shooting in Aurora, Illinois on Friday there were still too many unknown factors to draw any conclusions. The killer’s motives, methods and mental state were all up for grabs. In the past 48 hours, some of those questions appear to have been answered, but new ones have arisen having more to do with the government than the murderer.

It’s been confirmed that he had just been fired from his job, no doubt leading to his anger with some of the people at the plant where he worked. His mother said that he’d been under a lot of stress. But he already had a bit of history with law enforcement prior to this carnage. Much more to the point, he was allowed to “legally” purchase a firearm, but he never should have been. (Time, emphasis added)

According to police, Martin was convicted of a felony for aggravated assault in Mississippi in 1995. The Chicago Sun-Times reports that the felony conviction was for stabbing a woman…

Aurora police also confirmed that in January 2014, Martin was issued a firearm owner’s identification card after passing a background check.

Police said in March 2014, Martin purchased a Smith & Wesson .40-caliber handgun from an Aurora gun dealer. According to police, he applied for a concealed carry permit five days later, which required a fingerprinting and background check, and was rejected because of the felony conviction.

So the shooter had a felony conviction on his record for a violent crime, though not gun related. He’d also been reported for domestic violence. How did he slip through the system and pass an initial background check to get the handgun? Obviously, the information was in the database because they flagged him when he attempted to get a concealed carry permit. But at that point, shouldn’t there have been a process in place to circle back and issue an order to have him surrender his new firearm? That didn’t happen. Perhaps it wouldn’t have changed anything if he was able to access a weapon on the black market, but it at least might have slowed him down.

There are still gaps in the system. Passing new laws about background checks isn’t going to do any good until we can manage to enforce the laws we have on the books already and fix whatever implementation errors exist, allowing this sort of thing to happen.

Those may not be the only problems we need to deal with either. Do yourself a favor and read this Twitter thread from Shayna Lopez Rivas. She works for a Federal Firearms License (FFL) dealer and what she reports is truly disturbing.

[T]he FFL I work for reported an illegal straw-purchase to ATF in December. We didn’t know it at the time we sold the gun, but walking the woman out of the store we saw her exchange the gun w/ someone else for money. We reported it the same day.

Less then two weeks ago, IN FEBRUARY, ATF reached out to us to investigate the straw purchase [because] the firearm was given to a felon who used it in a crime. THEY WAITED UNTIL A VIOLENT CRIME WAS COMMITTED TO INVESTIGATE NEARLY TWO MONTHS AFTER THE ILLEGAL SALE WAS REPORTED.

There’s more to this thread, but that’s the screaming headline of her report, assuming it can be verified. If an FFL dealer reports to the ATF that they witnessed a woman buying a weapon and immediately selling it to someone else in the parking lot and her license plate number was provided, you’d think that somebody would have been at her doorway by the next morning at the latest. Perhaps this is a case of the agency not having enough manpower and resources to follow all the leads they receive or maybe somebody just dropped the ball.

Either way, we definitely need to find out if BATFE has sufficient resources to handle these investigations properly and promptly, as well as determining if new leadership is required to cover all of our bases. The woman who allegedly conducted the straw purchase in the case above committed a felony which led to the commission of another violent crime. That’s the sort of thing we can at least hinder if we manage to enforce our existing laws and properly fund and train the people responsible for doing so.