TX Church Shooter Had Assault History: How Did He Get a Gun?

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The man who shot and killed two people in a White Settlement, Tx., church on Dec. 29 had a history of erratic behavior. Keith Kinnunen faced a felony charge of assault with a deadly weapon in 2008. In 2012, he was accused of using tampons and lamp oil to set a cotton field on fire. The same year, his ex-wife filed for a protective order against him, saying he was a “violent, paranoid person with a long line of assault and battery with and without firearms.” He walked into West Freeway Church of Christ with a shotgun, prompting many to ask why he was able to have a firearm, reports the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The federal Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agency has traced the gun Kinnunen used in the church shooting, but would not provide details until the investigation is complete.

Federal and state law prohibits convicted felons from buying guns, but Kinnunen has no felony convictions. While his assault and arson charges were originally felonies, both were prosecuted as misdemeanors. People who are declared mentally defective or who have been committed to a mental institution cannot buy a weapon. People addicted to a controlled substance are legally not able to buy a gun, as are some with domestic assault misdemeanor convictions. It is not known whether Kinnunen fit any of those categories. Even if he did, the enforcement of those prohibitions can be inconsistent, said law Prof. Eric Ruben of SMU Dedman School of Law. “So long as people can engage in private sales that don’t call for background checks, that’s a pretty big loophole,” Ruben said.

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