Accused shooter’s guns were seized, returned


Associated Press

Travis Reinking exhibited multiple warning signs that he was mentally unstable: He talked openly about delusions that he was being stalked by Taylor Swift. He insisted unknown people were making barking noises outside his home. He even went to the White House on a mission to talk to the president.

Reinking’s behavior resulted in the revocation of his Illinois firearms license, and his weapons were turned over to his father. But authorities say his father simply returned the three rifles and a handgun to his son when he decided to move out of state. The son now stands accused of opening fire Sunday at a Waffle House in Tennessee using an AR-15 that had been among the firearms seized. Four people were killed in the attack.

The case illustrates the difficulty of keeping guns away from mentally disturbed people and shows how easy it is for them to retrieve confiscated weapons.

“It’s a story of a highly effective law that then has a really dangerous loophole,” said Jonas Oransky, deputy legal director for Everytown for Gun Safety, which works to tighten gun laws.

Reinking was disarmed by a man at the restaurant and fled. He was captured Monday.

Under federal law, a gun owner’s weapons can be seized if that person is convicted of a felony or involuntarily committed for mental-health treatment. Illinois is one of the few states with a mechanism to allow firearms to be seized if someone’s behavior constitutes a “clear and present danger” but does not necessarily rise to the level of a felony conviction or an involuntary commitment.

Police reports describe Reinking as unstable but not violent. He was well-known by local law enforcement, and his troubles were not a mystery to his relatives, who told authorities that he had been having delusions since 2014.

The father could face charges for returning the guns, according to Marcus Watson, an agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives who spoke Monday at a news conference.

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