The mass murder Sunday at a Tennessee Waffle House illustrates the difficulty of keeping guns away from mentally disturbed people and shows how easy it is for them to retrieve confiscated weapons, reports the Associated Press. Accused killer Travis Reinking exhibited multiple warning signs that he was mentally unstable. Among other things, he thought he was being stalked by Taylor Swift, and he went to the White House on a mission to talk to the president. Reinking’s behavior led to revocation of his Illinois firearms license, and his weapons were turned over to his father, Jeffrey Reinking. But authorities say the father simply returned the three rifles and a handgun to his son when he decided to move out of state. The son killed four people at the restaurant using an AR-15 that had been among the firearms seized. He fled but was captured Monday. The father could face charges for returning the guns, according to the ATF.
“It’s a story of a highly effective law that then has a really dangerous loophole,” said Jonas Oransky of Everytown for Gun Safety. 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. Local police viewed Reinking, who had been having delusions since 2014, as unstable but not violent. Ari Freilich of the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence called Jeffrey Reinking “irresponsible and dangerous” for returning the guns.