If Current Laws Had Been Followed, There Would Have Been No Waffle House Shooting

waffle house shootingOn Monday afternoon, Tennessee law enforcement officers captured a 29-year-old Illinois man suspected of opening fire on diners at a Nashville Waffle House, despite the man having had his firearms seized on multiple occasions in the last two years.

Four people died and several others were wounded by the shooter—who wore nothing but a green jacket—before a  customer, also 29, heroically wrestled the firearm away and threw it over a counter. The attacker fled the scene naked and evaded police for over 24 hours before the suspect was apprehended.

As often happens in the aftermath of highly publicized shooting incidents, blame has already been placed on the lack of “common-sense gun control.” But, once again, this blame is misplaced—had already-existing laws been properly followed and enforced, this individual would not have had access to a firearm.

What We Know About the Suspect

The Waffle House suspect has a long history of mental health issues, including recent run-ins with law enforcement and an observational stay in a psychiatric unit. The timeline of concerning events, as most recently reported by major media outlets, is outlined below:

  • May 2016: The Tazewell County (Illinois) Sheriff’s Office responded to a call at a CVS parking lot, where the suspect was suicidal and believed his parents were helping music star Taylor Swift harass him. The suspect’s relatives talked him out of harming himself and he was detained at a hospital for a psychiatric evaluation. It doesn’t appear that he was involuntarily committed to a mental institution or otherwise adjudicated to be a danger to himself or others.
  • June 2017: The suspect was accused of threatening someone with an AR-15 while wearing a pink dress outside of a public pool. According to the incident report, he then stripped naked and jumped into the pool before repeatedly flashing his genitals to the lifeguards ordering him to leave. Police responded, but the suspect ultimately wasn’t charged with a crime. When officers inquired about the AR-15, which the suspect had placed back in the trunk of his car, they determined he had a valid Illinois firearms license and did not seize the gun.

The accused man’s father told police that he had previously taken three rifles and a handgun away from his son and locked them up over concerns regarding his mental health. The father returned the firearms to his son because the father wanted to move out of state.

Officers told the father that he should consider locking up the firearms again until the suspect received mental health treatment, and the father said he would.

  • July 2017: The Secret Service arrested the Waffle House suspect for attempting to breach a security barrier into a restricted area near the White House. He allegedly told the agents he was trying to set up a meeting with the president. The suspect was charged with “unlawful entry,” but the FBI apparently closed the case without pursuing a criminal conviction.
  • August 2017: The accused contacted the Tazewell County Sheriff’s Office to complain that dozens of people were “tapping into his computer and phone” after he attempted to send letters to Taylor Swift. At some point soon afterward, Illinois officials revoked his state firearms license, which Illinois requires for the possession of any firearm in the state.

On Aug. 24, deputies arrived to seize the suspect’s firearms and remove them from his possession. His father, who had a valid state firearms license, requested that the firearms be released to him under the condition that they be kept secured and inaccessible to his son.  Because the father could legally possess firearms in the state and agreed to comply with requirements to keep them away from the suspect, officers agreed to transfer them to the father.

  • Fall 2017: The Waffle House suspect moved from Illinois to Nashville, Tennessee. His father admitted to police that he returned the firearms to his son—including the semi-automatic rifle used in the Waffle House killings—though it is unclear if this occurred before or after the suspect moved out of Illinois.
  • April, 2018: In early April, the accused was fired from his job with a construction company. The reasons for the firing are unclear.

Can the Father Be Held Criminally Liable?

It’s possible that the father can be held criminally liable for returning the firearms to his son, depending on the specific circumstances of when and where he returned them, and which state laws are being considered.

In Illinois, it’s a class 4 felony to knowingly transfer a firearm to an individual who doesn’t possess a valid state firearms license. It’s apparent that the father knew that his son had this license revoked, because he was both present when officers came to seize the firearms and was told by the officers that the firearms must be kept inaccessible to the son. If the father gave the firearms back to his son before he left Illinois, this statute could come into play for criminal charges.

If the transfer occurred in Tennessee, however, this may not be the case. The Waffle House suspect doesn’t appear to have been prohibited from possessing firearms under Tennessee law, because he was never convicted of a disqualifying criminal offense or involuntarily committed to a mental institution.

There are other possibilities for criminal charges in Tennessee, such as for reckless or criminally negligent homicide, but the availability of those charges may depend on how Tennessee interprets those laws.

Stricter Gun Laws Wouldn’t Have Prevented This

Like the vast majority of mass public shooters with mental health problems, the man in custody  appears to have inexplicably managed to avoid a criminal or mental health history that would have disqualified him from possessing a firearm under federal law.

This incident certainly raises concerns about records-sharing between states. Illinois revoked the suspect’s state firearms license, meaning he was prohibited from possessing a firearm in the state of Illinois.

This doesn’t, however, mean that other states like Tennessee had access to any information indicating that the suspect presented a heightened risk of danger such that he needed to remain disarmed.

Moreover, millions of relevant disqualifying histories are likely missing from the FBI’s background check system because states can’t be compelled to submit them, and too often fail to do so.

But realistically, even perfect records-sharing would only have prevented the Waffle House suspect from purchasing new firearms—which requires a background check—or from receiving firearms from a private citizen who follows the law and doesn’t transfer firearms to dangerous or disqualified individuals. It would not have prevented the accused man’s father from recklessly, and perhaps illegally, giving the guns back to his son without informing police.

Nor would prohibitions on “assault weapons”—a made up term that has no bearing on a gun’s lethality—have stopped this incident. California has long banned so-called “assault weapons,” but according to the Mother Jones mass public shooting database, California has experienced far more mass public shootings since 2000 than any other state. Last month’s shooting at a veteran’s home in Yountville was the state’s 10th mass public shooting event in the last 18 years, compared to just four in Texas and two in Tennessee.

Meanwhile, Monday afternoon in Toronto, nine people were killed and another 16 were wounded in a deliberate mass public attack. The deadly weapon was not an AR-15, or a handgun with a “high-capacity magazine.” That attacker needed only a van to cause double the carnage seen in Nashville.

Laws have the power to disarm law-abiding citizens who would obey those laws. They have no power to prevent an irresponsible parent from re-arming his son with the very guns he agreed to keep inaccessible, and from failing to inform law enforcement that an individual proven to be a danger to himself or others now has firearms.

Once again, we were not failed by a lack of adequate gun laws. We were failed by human error that neglected to fully enforce those laws.

From - The Daily Signal - by Amy Swearer

If You Enjoy Articles Like This - Subscribe to the AMAC Daily Newsletter
and Download the AMAC News App

Sign Up Today Download

If You Enjoy Articles Like This - Subscribe to the AMAC Daily Newsletter!

Notify of
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
4 years ago

Omitted information: when the suspect moved to Tennessee, did his father ALSO move to Tennessee? Because if not, then additional federal laws about transferring firearms interstate may also have been violated.

But there is a greater point here. If you fixate (as progressives want you to) on laws you could pass to stop all these crimes BEFORE they occur, you fail to concentrate on how best to abort these crimes once they have begun to occur — because you will never be able to prevent them all.

If you concentrate only on how to prevent fires, you never invent the smoke detector or the sprinkler system. If you concentrate only on how to prevent auto collisions, you never invent the airbag or the OnStar collision alert. All of these save significant human life every year when “prevention” activities have failed.

Similarly, if you concentrate only on how to “prevent” spree shootings, you never investigate the effectiveness of allowing legally armed citizens to be present to challenge and neutralize the shooter. Fact: The average number of people killed in mass shootings when stopped by police is 14.29; the average number of people killed in a mass shooting when stopped by a civilian is 2.33.

We know, for instance, how to eliminate school shootings: repeal the phony “Gun-Free School Zones” law. When you bring this up, progressives shriek like vampires confronted with crosses — they know they can’t dare allow this to be tried anywhere, because they know the results would destroy all their arguments.

Unfortuntely, Waffle House needs to learn that lesson as well, as their entire national chain has a gun-free policy… and look how well that has worked out for them.

4 years ago

The mainstream media’s agenda does not allow for facts or truth, only spin. Unfortunately also, county small claims courts run on the same perception that only those who are law abiding will follow the law. They do not enforce their own decisions! We are seriously lacking simple moral values at every level.

Guns don’t cause crimes. It’s the selfish idiots behind them.

Donna Barber
4 years ago

Dad should have told police he was leaving the state and police could of ceased the firearms as they started to anyway, so Dad is responsible.

4 years ago

Once again it is proven that only the law abiding follow the rules.

Criminals might understand deterrence and consequences but people who kill complete strangers understand neither.

Politicians just want to stay in office, so their only recourse is to pile laws on top of laws that make no appreciable difference except to limit lawful citizens.

4 years ago

this was not human error or negligence. When the police ignore dozens of calls about a problem, when the school’s complaints about the “student” go unheeded, when the FBI sweeps the tips about impending violence under the rug, and then the police who were ON THE SCENE do nothing-that is AGENDA pure and simple. The goal of the AGENDA? To whip up anti-second amendment hysteria and begin the process of gutting the Constitution. First the 2nd amendment, then maybe the 4th and so on.

GoldenHornet, USN (RET)
4 years ago

The majority of the commenortor’s support more and better mental health care. However, healthcare is only valid following a determination through suspect psychological culpability assessment following an arrest. Was a mental stability test performed with the known fact that this individual was previously known to have been psychologically unstable? As for my comment regarding this issue, this is only one of hundreds over the past 118 days to have been brought to our knowledge, however the hundreds that have not been exposed are still out there in public, interacting with those that the legal system has just “caught and released!!” Much as is so common in our “liberal society today!!” A possible beginning for correcting this outrageous acceptance of violence and form of life would be for all concerned citizens to assist our current POTUS to ‘DRAIN-THE-SWAMP!!!!!” THE TITLE OF THIS UNFORTUNATE ARTICLE SHOULD REALISTICALLY HAVE BEEN, “IF CURRENT LAWS HAD BEEN FOLLOWED AND ENFORCED, THERE MAY OR MAY-NOT HAVE BEEN A WAFFLE HOUSE SHOOTING.” At least consider getting rid of the Left-Wing & Center Right 4ever!!

Maria Rose
4 years ago

You would think the ultra liberals would find a suitable way to deal with mentally incapacitated people who need the regime of prescription drugs to function “normally” in society without infringing on their “rights”. I can’t see blaming “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” for the problems that public mental institutes had because the private ones for the rich did not have those problems. So let these ultra liberals find a way to fund properly run programs.

Gloria P. Sterling
4 years ago
Reply to  Maria Rose

How can the ultra liberals find a “suitable way” when they are mentally incapacitated themselves?

Tom Stanley
4 years ago

Lock up the father and the son
Shoot Hillary

4 years ago

The description of events and behavior indicate mental health problems. So what were the psychotropic drugs he was on or recently coming off of? Dr. Piazza made this connection a decade ago and researched every mass shooting going back to August 1966 to prove the conclusion. Every one of them had the one common element–psych drugs that have side effects worse than the condition they try to treat.

4 years ago
Reply to  Andie

I agree this is a poorly treated psychiatric patient that took drugs that made him worse, i.e. thoughts of homicide/suicide are warnings on a lot of psych drugs. There is a nutritional alternative…check out DoctorYourselfdotcom and read about vitamins used to help mental problems.

D Johnson
4 years ago

There are many contributing factors to this and every such tragedy, of which poor mental health treatment, unreliable law enforcement, and a lack of wise parenting are obvious. But, where is the acknowledgement of the reality of sin and its pervasive effects in all of these areas? As Solzhenitsyn (I think) said many years ago about the evils communism brought to the Soviet Union, “We have forgotten God. That is why all these things are happening.”

4 years ago

Unfortunately, we no longer have institutions in which to place the mentally ill where they will be housed, fed, and provided with the appropriate medical care. Because the father had returned the guns to his son once before and was fully aware that the son had mental health issues, he should never have been allowed to receive his son’s guns again. The guns should have been confiscated or sold. As the father did not comply with the terms of his possession of the guns, he should be tried as an accessory to murder…he was fully aware of his duty to secure the guns from his son and that his son was mentally ill when he returned them to him and, therefore, has no excuse or defense. If he did not want to continue to store them, he should have sold them or turned them over to law enforcement…no question about that.

4 years ago

It’s a shame that we can no longer enforce laws that are already on the books because we might hurt someone’s feelings. How about the feelings of the families this man crushed? Are they not to be considered? Are they to be just forgotten? This man should have been locked up long before this crime was committed.

4 years ago

Could be the shooter had inherited the mental illness. I don’t think the father was mentally stable enough to own these guns; at least not mentally stable enough to know not to give them to a mentally ill person. To the mentally ill, others who are mentally ill seem perfectly normal. If the father is prosecuted for his part in these killings some bleeding heart lawyer will try to get him off with an insanity plea. The article didn’t say if the father’s firearms license has been revoked. Probably not.

4 years ago

I live in Illinois, not far from the town where the father’s home and we are being told by the sheriff that it was totally legal and within the father’s rights to return the guns to the son.

Bill in TX
4 years ago

Enforcing laws that already exist is the correct answer. It is just common sense. But the solution goes beyond the question of laws and their enforcement. How do we fix the broken morality of our nation? The schools stopped teaching the golden rule, stopped school prayer, expelled God from the class room, stopped teaching the Constitution along with our nations history, and teach children to find their “safe place”. Our country will continue to slide into socialism as long as these and other issues are not addressed and corrected. Do not wait on Congress or state legislatures to fix the problems because they are creators of the problems. Conservative organizations like Amac must take on the tasks of forcing corrections for future generations. Are you active in your local Amac chapter?
Well there is one positive side to the non-enforcement of laws. If the DNC-progressives force gun control and other communist laws we can just ignore them.

John Wesley
4 years ago
Reply to  Bill in TX

That’s right. In today’s America you only need comply with rules and laws that you agree with. All laws are treated like the speed limit.

Rex Whitmer
4 years ago

It’s been a long, long time ago, but when I was a young boy, my father worked in what we called an asylum in those days. I believe that it wouldn’t hurt a thing if this practice would be restored. They are a hazard to the citizens whom have no problem with mental illnesses. They are safer there and the public is as well! Yes, the father should be found responsible for the losses caused by his son, and should be at least tried as an associate to a murderer! Every large city these days has persons whom live on the streets. No effort is made to discern these person’s sanity or reason not to be living in a normal residence. Many are not suffering from any illnesses, but should not be allowed to live on the streets of our towns and cities. They may or may not be dangerous, but there is no excuse for this behavior to be ignored!

John Wesley
4 years ago
Reply to  Rex Whitmer

Rex for president.

4 years ago

I think the father should be held accountable, even though it is in a different stste, the father was aware of the situation, and still returned the weapons to the son, that he knew had a mental problem. As far as I am concerned no one knows the situation better than his family, and especially the father, and someone needs to be accountable for these deaths, and it shouldn’t be the NRA, as you know it will be, and the NRA has absolutely no knowledge of the situation, the family should be held accountable, and the weapons were released to the father, and he took full responsibility for these weapons, so he should be held accountable. I’m a lifetime member of the NRA, and I’m tired of the liberals always blaming the NRA, but someone should be blamed, and if the father didn’t want to take responsibility, he should have never accepted the responsibility of these weapons, so it is all on his head, I don’t care if they moved to a different state, if the father didn’t want to except responsibility he should have returned the weapons back to the state that they moved from.

John Wesley
4 years ago
Reply to  Tom

The ACLU should be blamed! We have a mental defective in the family that is a danger to himself and others. The police know he is a problem. The judges know he is a problem. The “family” can help him at a cost of $1000 a month {only if he stays on his meds} so that is not a solution. We need padded rooms for these people, yet the liberals want more criminals out on the streets because the jails are overcrowded.

4 years ago
Reply to  Tom

“and the weapons were released to the father”. The police (who don’t own the weapons) CAN’T “release” those weapons to anyone. The firearms should’ve been TRANSFERRED from the perp to the cops then TRANSFERRED to the father, thereby establishing the legal chain of custody as per Federal Firearms laws. Seems to me that the perp is responsible with the cops needing to be held accountable as well. Tom, I am also a Benefactor-Life NRA member.

Elena Tellez
4 years ago

Quality mental health care, and especially involuntarily custodial care, are woefully inadequate in America. Back in the 1970s, many mental facilities were closed to ‘mainstream’ most patients. For some, it sped up their good treatment and rehabilitation back into our somewhat ‘sane’ society. For others, much harm was done to innocent people by these mentally and criminally ill patients. As a young girl, age 11, I was a victim of one of them who had just been released. I was luckily able to stab him with his own knife as he tried to rape me — and the police got him. He bled to death. How many more childhood or adult traumas such as this could have been prevented if the violent patient were kept under lock and key?

Maria Gregory
4 years ago
Reply to  Elena Tellez

Hi, Elena, I am so sorry to hear about your story and I praise you for having the strength at age 11 to save yourself from that villain, You did what you had to do, and that took guts. The problem we have today is that our govt. or the powers that be either won’t or don’t want to look at mental illness in the eye and do something about it. And that is why so many mentally ill people fall through the cracks, left alone to wander around and commit some crime before they are taken in if they didn’t get killed first. I don’t know if we even have a platform on mental illness…it would be great if that could be addressed on a larger scale and maybe get something done to help curb the problem. It’s bad enough that our homeless population is growing by leaps and bounds and how many of them are actually suffering from mental instability of some kind.and not getting any help. We don’t need anymore illegals entering our country as we don’t know how many of them may already be suffering from some mental issue, adding to our problem, and escalating the numbers even more. I hope our politicians will address the problem, or even our state and city leaders as it will most certainly be a great platform for them to discuss…..it needs to be discussed and brought to light…not something that is shoved under the rug. This problem is too huge to shove aside as too many people have already been hurt or killed and it’s not going to get any better either.
Take care and God bless you for your heroic story as well as a sad one…God looked after you that day. Let’s hope and pray that other children will not have to suffer the same thing too.

Martin Steed
4 years ago

About 40 years ago, the NRA had a great little bumper sticker that I had on my truck. It read:
IF you OUTLAW guns,
ONLY OUTLAWS will have them!
That is as true today as it was back then.
FYI Mary, it was the American Civil Liberties Union that sued the state of California and its governor, Ronald Regan, about putting people in mental institutions who presented no apparent danger to themselves or others. Of course, they won in front of a liberal judge and we immediately had lots and lots of homeless people on the streets roaming around. Problem has just continued to get bigger and bigger.

Maria Gregory
4 years ago
Reply to  Martin Steed

I think the ACLU does more harm than good when it comes to protecting people and their rights. It seems they are always for the opposite of what should be good…have they been sued at all? Sometimes I think they should be! The NRA does not go around telling people it’s ok to shoot others, nor do they tell the people that the guns are responsible for the shootings. Whenever there is a shooting anywhere, the “high and the mighty” scream for more gun control, blames the NRA, GOD or any reason for that matter, but what they DON’T address is the real problem behind the shooting, which in most cases is Mental issues. I’m sure the ACLU would chastise anyone who says the real problem is a mental one. If they (ACLU) could sue Pres. Reagan and won the case in front of a liberal judge “about putting people in mental institutions who presented no apparent danger to themselves or others” and just let them go, then people who are drug addicts, molesters, pedophiles and even murderers are all innocent too, right? That IS the problem with today’s society!!! We are finding faults elsewhere when it is looking straight at us right in the eye. By taking guns away altogether is not going to solve the problem of killing people as people are now also using knives or anything they can get their hands on to hurt others any way they can…so does that mean that knives need to be done away with too. or anything with an edge or point or even a hat pin or a hammer? What about people’s hands…they can be a lethal weapon too or their feet. We need to get to to the source of the problems, not the objects that are used to hurt others, guns included.
I was surprised that when the massacre occurred in Parkland, FL no one mentioned “mental illness” as the probable cause, but were quick to blame the NRA when the shooter had tell-tale signs of being unstable. And that kid David Hogg who was more interested in his 15 minutes of fame as a student journalist who didn’t get anything right and who tried to take down big name supporters of Laura Ingraham like he was already someone campaigning for some high office, ready to send her to hell. He should have been looked at too! I wonder who mentored him? He seemed to harbor a lot of anger for such a young man. I wonder if the ACLU had praises for his behavior?

Paul W
4 years ago

I am sick and tired of listening to the anti-second amendment crowd and their blatantly disingenuous blather. I’m even sicker of the left-biased media giving credence to a bought off, ignorant, little child from Florida (actually California). This country is infected by the lies on the left. You’ll never hear these facts (in this article) on network news or in mainstream papers. Never let facts get in the way of an agenda. The agenda…the eradication of the first and second amendments. Believe it.

Donna Barber
4 years ago
Reply to  Paul W

Your so correct about their agenda also.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x