The man behind this past weekend's deadly shooting in Midland and Odessa, Texas, was not legally allowed to purchase or posses a firearm due to a court's decision that he was mentally unfit to do so, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday afternoon.
Law enforcement officials told the newspaper that the 36-year-old shooter had been deemed mentally unfit by a court and when he tried to purchase a firearm, he also failed the background check because of the adjudication.
Under federal law, people who have been "adjudicated as a mental defective" or "committed to a mental institution" are prohibited from purchasing, possessing, shipping, or transporting firearms. An ATF document explains that people can be adjudicated "as a mental defective" for a variety of reasons, including being a danger to themselves or others, being incompetent to stand trial, or lacking the mental capacity to handle their own affairs.
The story went on to explain that authorities are trying to determine how he obtained the firearm despite the prohibition, including whether or not it was purchased via an intra-state private sale, which does not require a background check under law. However, private sales and transfers are illegal if the seller knows or has reasonable cause to believe that the buyer is a prohibited person.
The gunman hijacked a mail vehicle and killed seven people in two Texas cities before being killed by law enforcement Saturday. He was fired from his job that morning, but the FBI said he was "already enraged" when he showed up for work that day. In addition to his previous mental adjudication, the suspect had a criminal history going back to his teenage years.