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News and notes on guns in America

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A crime scene in Midland, Texas, nearby to where a gunman was killed after he shot multiple people on August 31, 2019, in two cities. [Cengiz Yar/Getty Images]

Daily Bulletin: The Odessa Gunman Did Not Pass a Background Check, Officials Say

Good morning, Bulletin readers. We begin today’s briefing with updates on Saturday’s mass shooting in West Texas, where a gunman driving through the neighboring cities of Odessa and Midland left seven people dead and 21 injured. As more details emerge, the debate over new gun laws is intensifying, from Washington, D.C, to Austin to the 2020 campaign trail.

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THE LATEST ON THE WEST TEXAS SHOOTING

The gunman once failed a gun background checkand didn’t go through a background check to purchase the weapon he used in his killing spree. Texas Governor Greg Abbott tweeted those revelations on Monday. State Representative Tom Craddick separately told the Midland Reporter-Telegram that the shooter had previously been blocked from purchasing a firearm. Abbott referred further questions to the Texas Department of Public Safety, which has not disclosed specifics about where and how the gunman acquired the AR-style rifle he used. If confirmed, the fact that the assailant obtained his firearm through a loophole in the background check system could have significant ramifications in the debate over expanding vetting for gun buyers.

The gunman had a criminal record and a history of mental instability. He was arrested on misdemeanor charges of criminal trespass and evading arrest in 2001, to which he pleaded guilty and received two years’ probation, and was also arrested for public intoxication in 2014. It’s not clear, however, which aspect of his history caused him to fail the gun background check. The New York Timesvia a family friend, also reports that the man had a history of mental problems and had made racist comments in the past: “The man should have never had a gun near his hand, ever.”

The motive for the rampage is unclear. Fifteen minutes before the gunman was pulled over by state troopers, he called Odessa police and an FBI tip line to complain about his employer, who’d just fired him. During the FBI call, he sounded as if he were in “great mental distress,” an FBI agent said, adding that he doesn’t think the firing sparked the rampage, “When he showed up to work he was already enraged.” His neighbors in west Odessa said he would fire guns on his property, and at least one reported his aggressive behavior to the police.

Governor Abbott called for solutions “fast.” At a news conference on Sunday, he said: “The status quo in Texas is unacceptable and action is needed … and we must do it fast,” adding that any action must also ensure “that we safeguard Second Amendment rights.” On Twitter on Monday, he reiterated, “We must keep guns out of criminals’ hands.”

What we know about the victims. A 17-month-old girl and three law enforcement officers are among the wounded. The fatalities include a 15-year-old girl who was shot while leaving a car dealership, a 29-year-old postal worker who was carjacked by the gunman, and a 40-year-old man gunned down in front of his children while driving.

WHAT ELSE TO KNOW TODAY

Nine people were shot at a high school football game in Alabama. A 17-year-old was arrested in the incident outside Ladd Peebles Stadium in Mobile on Friday night. The victims range in age from 15 to 18.

Charleston church shooting victims can sue the government over background check errors. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ruled Friday that a lower court was wrong to conclude that the federal government was immune from the claims. Victims’ families and survivors are arguing that the background check investigator contacted the wrong police department for records pertaining to the gunman’s past drug use, which should have been enough to block the purchase.

A former security guard at the ATF’s West Virginia warehouse was sentenced to 14 years in prison for stealing guns. Christopher Lee Yates stole and then sold off thousands of guns and gun parts, including several machine guns, from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives’ weapons disposal unit. More than 4,600 pieces of the stolen firearms and parts have been recovered so far.

The undocumented immigrant who unintentionally killed a woman with a gun he found on a San Francisco pier was exonerated. On Friday, a California appeals court overturned  the only conviction stemming from the 2015 shooting of Kate Steinle, an illegal gun possession charge. Jose Inez Garcia Zarate, who’d been deported five times, was acquitted of murder in 2017. He still faces federal gun possession charges. The gun had been stolen from a federal agent’s car; Zarate maintains that he picked it up not knowing what it was.

A licensed concealed carrier in Nebraska was arrested for shooting a thief at a liquor store. The 38-year-old suspect was charged with assault for shooting a manas he fled with two bottles of stolen liquor in Lincoln earlier this month. The thief was unarmed.

NEW FROM THE TRACE

Meet the young activists fighting Chicago’s gun violence, with lobbying and group hugs. GoodKids MadCity is an anti-gun violence group entirely led by black and brown youth from the South and West Sides of Chicago. Founded in the wake of the Parkland shooting, the group has grown to roughly 50 members. They have lost friends and family members to gun violence. Some are gunshot survivors themselves. Though no one asked them to lead, no one has stepped up with sufficient solutions, either. So they are working to provide support to young people affected by shootings while pushing for policies that address the drivers of violence. Contributor Kim Bellware profiled the group, in partnership with Teen Vogue.