Aurora Shooter Had An Illegal Gun | WBEZ
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Aurora Shooter Had An Illegal Gun

Police say the fired worker who killed five people at a warehouse in Aurora, Illinois, was able to buy the gun he used because an initial background check didn't catch that he had a prior felony conviction in Mississippi.

Aurora police Chief Kristin Ziman said Saturday that Gary Martin was issued a firearm owner's identification card in January of 2014 after he passed the initial background check.

She says he bought the Smith and Wesson .40-caliber handgun on March 11, 2014, and that his 1995 felony conviction for aggravated assault in Mississippi wasn't flagged until he applied for a concealed carry permit five days later. That application process includes vetting using a more rigorous digital fingerprinting system.

Once his felony was discovered police said Martin’s application for a concealed carry permit was denied, and his license to own a gun--known as FOID card--was revoked. Illinois law says that when that happens the gun owner receives a “revocation notice.” Within 48 hours the owner is required to surrender the FOID card to their local law enforcement agency, and complete a form known as a Firearm Disposition Record, where the owner certifies they have transferred ownership of their firearms to someone who does have a valid FOID card.

But Martin was able to keep his gun. Speaking at a Saturday morning press conference, Aurora Police Chief Kristen Ziman said she didn’t know whether her department or any other law enforcement agency followed up with Martin after his FOID card was revoked.

“We just have records that a letter went out,” Ziman said.  “All of that is speculative right now, and those are the unanswered questions we are determining to find out.”

Critics of Illinois’ gun laws have long been frustrated with the failure to collect firearms after a person’s FOID card has been revoked. While law enforcement agencies have the option of petitioning a circuit court for a warrant to seize the firearms of someone who has lost their FOID card, they are not required to.

“This is just another terribly tragic example of how shamefully weak Illinois’ gun laws are,” said Cara Smith with the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, which runs a “gun team” to collect illegal firearms. “How many more lives need to be lost before we take the appropriate action?”

A spokesman for the Illinois State Police, which is supposed to ultimately receive revoked FOID cards and Firearm Disposition Records, could not immediately answer a request for comment.

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