(Reuters) - Illinois lawmakers on Tuesday were trying to close a legal loophole that allowed a confiscated AR-15 semiautomatic rifle to be given back to the man accused of a shooting at a Waffle House restaurant in Tennessee that killed four and wounded four.
The legislation, which should be made public later on Tuesday, is meant to deter a family member from returning a firearm to a relative whose gun licence has been revoked, Illinois State Senator Julie Morrison told Reuters.
Illinois state police revoked the gun licence of Travis Reinking and his firearms were transferred to his father after U.S. Secret Service agents arrested him last year for being in a restricted area near the White House. The 29-year-old Reinking, who had a troubled past, said he wanted to meet President Donald Trump.
Reinking’s father subsequently gave the guns back to him.
“This legislation is going to make sure the guns do not go back into the hands of the person who shouldn’t have them,” said Morrison, a Democrat.
The Illinois legislature is also working on a separate bill to permit families of troubled individuals who are a danger to themselves or others to have guns removed temporarily from that person’s home.
Illinois is one of the few U.S. states that requires residents to have a licence or permit to own a gun and is among a minority of U.S. states that requires gun owners to give up firearms if their rights to own them are revoked.
Morrison’s legislation would require a person taking possession of guns to sign an affidavit acknowledging that it is a felony to give a firearm to a person who does not have a valid Firearm Owner’s Identification (FOID) gun permit.
The proposed legislation goes some way towards closing a loophole identified by gun control groups.
“We think it is risky for the law to allow a third party, including a family member, to hold onto firearms when a person loses his or her gun eligibility,” said Hannah Shearer, staff attorney at the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “It can be far too easy for the person to retake possession of the guns and perpetrate a shooting.”
Gun rights advocates said the problem lay with Travis’ father, who may have knowingly broken Illinois state law and federal law by giving guns to someone not allowed to have them.
“Certain people commit crimes,” said California attorney Chuck Michel, who litigates for the National Rifle Association. “That’s the problem with gun control laws, they never stop people committing the crimes.”
The NRA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
For survivors of gun violence like Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Cameron Kasky, it made little sense to keep a firearm within a family if one of its members was judged unfit to have it.
“If it’s with your family, there’s a very good chance you can get it from them,” said Kasky.
After seeing so much gun violence in his hometown and state, Chicago criminal defence lawyer Michael O’Meara wanted lawmakers to ensure that firearms taken from people never returned to them.
“A guy was able to get his hands on the very guns he was told were revoked and that’s concerning,” O’Meara said.
Reporting By Andrew Hay in New Mexico and Bernie Woodall in Florida; editing by Jonathan Oatis