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Officials said Monday that the gunman who killed seven people and injured 25 in a Texas highway shooting rampage Saturday had previously been stopped from purchasing a gun because he failed a federal instant background check. No details were given on why he had failed that background check, or how he obtained the AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle he used in the mass shooting. We're going to go way out on a limb and guess maybe he bought it in a private sale, which in Texas is not subject to background checks, because Texas believes in freedom.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott tweeted Monday that something must be done to keep guns out of the hands of violent bad guys!

Just as long as the something we do doesn't include strengthening background checks or extending them to cover private gun transfers, because either of those measures would inconvenience Responsible Gun Owners. Besides, even if we expanded background checks, this guy was a criminal who got a gun anyway, so background checks can never work, QED.


This seems like a good place to point out a couple of pretty obvious points: 1) No gun control law will ever stop all shootings. Not in a country with more guns than people. The genie is well out of the toothpaste tube, so we can never seal that barn. 2) Tighter background checks, and a national system of firearms licensing and registration like those proposed by Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren, would have made it a hell of a lot harder for a guy planning a massacre to get his murder weapon.

But we can't do that, because criminals don't follow the law, and even if laws prevent some massacres, they're still bad. Besides, every country with firearms registration has then gone on to confiscate all guns and institute tyranny, except for the places where that hasn't happened, but it will, because it always does. Just ask people in the fascist death camps of Canada and Australia.

The Texas Tribune notes that, under Texas's current laws, the gunman's known criminal record wouldn't have prevented him from buying a gun:

The Austin American-Statesman reported that the gunman was arrested for evading arrest and criminal trespass in McLennan County in 2001, when he was 18, and received deferred adjudication — a form of probation — after pleading guilty to both misdemeanor charges. In Texas, only convictions for felonies or domestic violence misdemeanors block people from legally buying a gun [...]

In Texas, licensed dealers must conduct background checks through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS. However, there are exceptions to this rule, such as if the buyer already has a Texas license to carry a handgun. Private sales between individuals also do not require a criminal background check, which includes some gun sales at gun shows.

Only a crazy person would think stronger background checks might help, obviously, which is why it must remain legal for private sellers to trade weapons without interference.

Besides, the clear answer is to start locking up the mentally ill, because the Odessa/Midland shooter made a series of weirdass phone calls to the FBI in which he talked about his delusions of being persecuted, but didn't make any overt threats of violence. On Saturday, after he was fired from his job, he made another call to the FBI tip line, and again didn't make any threats, according to FBI Special Agent Christopher Combs.

Combs said the gunman had previously called the agency's national tip line multiple times, and described the call from the gunman on Saturday as "rambling statements about some of the atrocities that he felt he had gone through."

Combs said the gunman had been in a

long spiral of going down [...] He didn't wake up Saturday morning and walk into his company and then it happened. He went to that company in trouble, probably been in trouble for a while ... we really need the public's help to reach out to us when they see people in that downward spiral that may be on that road to violence.

The New York Times reports investigators don't think the firing triggered the shooting:

"When he showed up to work, he was already enraged," Special Agent Combs said, adding that "it is not because he got fired."

As for that history of weird rambling calls to the FBI, Combs explained that's just part of what happens when you have a tip line:

"I can tell you that thousands of people call law enforcement every day with crazy ramblings," he said, adding, "That's not the bar. The bar is when somebody makes threatening comments or when you see actions that are leading to illegal behavior. And that's hard. That's very hard because of the amount of calls that we get."

Here's a nutty idea: We could treat healthcare, including mental health, as a right, not a privilege, and get everyone the help they need. Instead of just institutionalizing people with mental illness, as Donald Trump wants. We could also start seeing toxic anger as a warning sign, not something to celebrate? Oh, but then we'd be attacking masculinity again.

The gunman's neighbors seemed aware he had some anger problems. One, Rocio Guttierrez, told the Associated Press the guy was

"a violent, aggressive person" that would shoot at animals, mostly rabbits, at all hours of the night

"We were afraid of him because you could tell what kind of person he was just by looking at him," Gutierrez said. "He was not nice, he was not friendly, he was not polite."

Another neighbor, Lourdes Tarago, told the Times she frequently heard gunshots coming from the guy's glorified shack of a home, about a block away:

usually after midnight. "We figured it was nothing since there is so many rattlesnakes here," she said. "We figured maybe he was shooting at some animals."

So really, no warning signs at all. If you tried to take guns away from every angry Texas loudmouth who shoots at critters after midnight, the state legislature would be empty.

UPDATE: Well golly, here's a surprise: The gunman did indeed purchase from a private seller, so no background check.

See, background checks just don't work. Especially when you don't have them.

[Texas Tribune / NYT / HuffPo / ABC News / Update: KTRK-TV]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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