After failing FBI background check, St. Louis school shooter bought gun from private seller
Police said no existing law would have prevented the private sale of the gun to the 19-year-old shooter
By Nassim Benchaabane
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
ST. LOUIS — The man accused of killing a teacher and teen earlier this week in a south St. Louis school shooting bought the AR-15-style gun from a private seller after an FBI background check blocked his attempted purchase from a licensed dealer in St. Charles.
No existing law would have prevented the private sale of the gun to Orlando Harris, 19, police said.
Harris is accused of a shooting Monday at Central Visual and Performing Arts High School and Collegiate School of Medicine & Bioscience that left two dead and seven injured. Police said he entered the campus, at South Kingshighway and Arsenal Street, with about 600 rounds of ammunition. Harris was killed by police after the attack.
Police said Wednesday that Harris' family was increasingly worried about his mental state in the weeks leading up to the attack and at one point had him "committed." Involuntary commitment to a mental health institution is one of the triggers that can block the purchase of firearms at licensed dealers. In addition to purchases, federal and state laws prohibit someone who was recently involuntarily committed to an institution from owning a firearm.
It is unclear whether police had access to Harris' mental health history.
St. Louis police Sgt. Charles Wall did not immediately respond to questions about why exactly Harris failed the background check on Oct. 8.
Police responded to Harris' home on Oct. 15 after his mother found a gun, the same used in Monday's attack, in the house and wanted it removed. Police said Thursday they did not have the authority to take the gun because Missouri does not have a red flag law.
A third person, known to the family, eventually took the gun away, but Harris somehow retrieved it.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson on Thursday met in downtown St. Louis with the officers who responded to Monday's shooting. He praised the officers, then after the meeting argued that red flag laws would not have stopped the shooting.
"You got a criminal that committed a criminal act, and all the laws in the world are not going to stop those things," Parson said.
Just days before Harris attempted to purchase the gun in St. Charles, a new federal law took effect that required the FBI to notify local or state law enforcement when a person legally prohibited from purchasing firearms fails a background check by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
The law, the NICS Denial Identification Act, stipulates the FBI notify law enforcement within 24 hours. A spokesperson for St. Charles police said earlier Thursday that they had not been notified. Neither St. Louis police nor the Missouri Highway Patrol immediately said if they had been notified.
A spokesperson for the local FBI office said the background check system is run by a separate office; she did not immediately have more information.
Teacher Jean Kuczka, 61, and student Alexzandria Bell, 15, were killed in Monday's shooting.
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