Illinois Police Admit That Oversight in a Background Check Allowed a Mass Shooter to Get a Gun

The problem isn't a lack of laws, but poor implementation of those laws.


|||STRINGER/Daily Herald/Newscom
STRINGER/Daily Herald/Newscom

Mass shootings usually generate calls for more legislation in the hopes of avoiding similar tragedies in the future. One of the more common legislative proposals is expanded background checks. While this call to action makes sense to gun control advocates, some shootings, like the days-old mass shooting in Aurora, Illinois, reveal an uncomfortable truth: poor implementation of laws is more of a concern than a lack of them.

After learning that he was to be fired, a disgruntled 15-year employee named Gary Martin allegedly took a gun and began to shoot at co-workers within the Henry Pratt Co. warehouse outside of Chicago. The shooting claimed the lives of five. The suspect was shot and killed by police after he wounded five officers. Following the tragedy, law enforcement acknowledged that current laws should have prevented Martin from legally owning a gun. So who was at least partially responsible for his possession of the weapon? The Illinois State Police.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the state police agency admitted on Monday that the suspect's background check merely looked into his criminal history in the state. Because of this, Martin's previous conviction in the state of Mississippi for felony aggravated assault and a subsequent five-year prison sentence went unnoticed twice. The agency is now investigating how the conviction, which would have disqualified Martin from owning a gun, was missed both times.

The conviction was eventually discovered after Martin submitted his fingerprints to expedite a concealed carry license application. After the Illinois State Police were made aware of an FBI record containing the felony conviction, the agency sent a letter to Martin saying that his right to own a gun was revoked. He was ordered to turn his gun over to a license firearm owner or the Aurora Police Department, which would in turn submit paperwork to say that he was no longer in possession of a gun. There is no record of the paperwork from the local police department.

This is not the first time law enforcement has failed to impose laws on the books, nor is it the first time a lack of communication between government agencies has allowed someone to fall through legal cracks. Similar failures in gun control allowed the Sutherland Springs, Texas, church shooter to own a gun despite legal prohibitions. The Air Force previously found the shooter guilty of strangling his then-wife and fracturing his stepson's skull. Despite this, the Air Force failed to report the conviction, an escape from a New Mexico mental health facility, and other behavioral issues, to the FBI as legally required. The shooter's problematic past was thus able to evade the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

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  1. Background checks and gun permits are violations of the 2nd Amendment and the People’s right to keep and bear Arms uninfringed by government laws.

    1. Absolutist on the 2nd, not so much on the 1st, and not so much on anything Trump ones. Principal over principles. Unless it’s Obama.

      Selected Principals over selected principles. Heckuva way to live.

      1. Poor alphabet troll does not understand that unpeaceful assemblies are not covered by the 1st Amendment.

        Only peaceable assemblies are.

  2. Heh. That won’t stop gun control fanatics from blaming the shooting on the “gun show loophole” or one of their other specious arguments.

    1. He did get the gun at a gun show. Did they do a background check?

      1. No, he didn’t, he bought it from a licensed firearms dealer.

        1. But the dealer did show him the gun before he bought it, did he not?

        2. And supposedly the FOID system is supposed to have a background check every 24 hours. From the Chicago Tribune:

          “Once the card is issued, the State Police reruns each cardholder through the FBI system every 24 hours and revokes the card of anyone who has incurred a recent infraction.”

          At one point I’d actually read a directive from the state police on this, but can’t seem to find it again.

      2. From the linked Chicago Tribune article: “…he purchased a .40-caliber Smith & Wesson from an Aurora gun dealer. The purchase was approved March 6, 2014, after Martin’s name and birth date cleared a second background check.”.

  3. And not to mention, that the factory was a gun-free zone, where everyone inside was disarmed and defenseless, allowing the killer 4 crucial minutes in which to do his work.

    Yet another Mass Public Shooting in another Gun-free zone: at the Henry Pratt Company in Aurora, Illinois…..-illinois/

    You can actually see a picture of the No-Guns sign on the front door.

    1. Haha. Yup see that no guns sign.

      These people will never learn that advertising that nobody will have guns are easy pickings for criminals.

  4. It’s an old trick: fail to enforce existing laws, and when the inevitable massacres result, claim that the government needs broad new powers to protect the public. Then, enact the powers and exploit them to massacre the population to keep them safe. This is why 100 million people were killed in Europe over the past century.

    It’s the same story for ‘hate speech’ and ‘defamation’ and ‘drug use’. Socialism is the ultimate expression of this dynamic: “Nothing is working so give us broad new powers to fix everything.”

  5. The problem isn’t a lack of laws, but poor implementation of those laws.

    So you don’t have a problem with the current gun laws? They are good ideas as long as they’re thoroughly enforced?

    1. As a resident of Illinois and a gun owner, I don’t have a problem with the current gun laws. They are a bit restrictive for my liking, but I can live with them, and yes, I do want them thoroughly enforced. Especially laws concerning convicted felons being in possession of a fire arm. This one is routinely ignored by our court system.

      I do have a problem with further restrictions on law abiding gun owners. Let’s enforce the laws currently on the books before we enact new ones.

  6. So many people get a hold of guns legally just because the bureaucrats in government don’t do what they are required. Maybe if the states where this happens would have pay out millions of dollars maybe then would insist the bureaucrats their job or get fired would stop these deaths.

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