The lone gunman who killed seven and injured 22 in a series of drive-by shootings in Odessa and Midland, Texas on Saturday obtained the firearm he used in the attack through an illegal private sale.
Local police told ABC News and other outlets that the shooter, 36-year-old Seth Ator, previously attempted to purchase a firearm from a licensed seller but was denied after failing a background check due to his history of “mental illness.” He then purchased the “AR-15 type” rifle that he used in the attack from a private seller who was under no legal obligation to conduct a background check on him.
Ator had been fired from his job at a local trucking company hours before the shooting spree, which began after police attempted to pull him over for failing to signal. But authorities said his firing does not appear to have motivated the attack.
“This did not happen because he was fired. He showed up to work enraged,” FBI special agent Christopher Combs said. He had also placed a “rambling” phone call to the FBI prior to the shooting, according to Combs.
Odessa police chief Mike Gerke told the New York Times that Ator had a criminal record but outstanding warrants at the time of the attack. Court records reviewed by ABC News show that he was arrested in 2001 for a misdemeanor, which alone would not have prevented him from passing a background check.
The revelation that Altor obtained his weapon in a private sale will undoubtedly reinvigorate congressional Democrats’ calls for universal-background-check legislation that would require private sellers to conduct background checks in the same way that gun retailers do currently. President Trump publicly considered endorsing such legislation following back-to-back mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas last month, but confined himself to discussing mental-health issues and other potential legislation after just two weeks.
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell projected neutrality during a Tuesday morning radio interview, telling host Hugh Hewitt that he would back anything supported by the White House.
“I expect to get an answer to that next week. If the president is in favor of a number of things that he has discussed openly and publicly and I know that if we pass it, it will become law, I’ll put it on the floor,” McConnell said when asked about potential legislative efforts.