An Illi­nois worker who opened fire inside a man­u­fac­tur­ing plant had his gun per­mit re­voked, but weapon wasn’t seized.

The Tribune (SLO) - - Front Page - BY DON BABWIN AND JULIE WAT­SON

An ini­tial back­ground check failed to de­tect a felony con­vic­tion that should have barred the man who killed five co­work­ers and wounded six other peo­ple at a sub­ur­ban Chicago man­u­fac­tur­ing plant from buy­ing the gun.

Months later, a sec­ond back­ground check of Gary Martin found his 1995 ag­gra­vated as­sault con­vic­tion in Mis­sis­sippi in­volv­ing the stab­bing of an ex-girl­friend. But it prompted only a let­ter stat­ing his gun per­mit had been re­voked and order­ing him to turn over his firearm to po­lice – rais­ing ques­tions about the state’s en­force­ment to en­sure those who lose their per­mits also turn over their weapons.

A vigil for the vic­tims, in­clud­ing a univer­sity stu­dent on his first day as an in­tern and a long­time plant man­ager, was held Sun­day out­side the Henry Pratt Co. in Aurora, about 40 miles west of Chicago. More than 1,500 peo­ple braved snow and freez­ing driz­zle to at­tend.

Martin, 45, was killed in a shootout with of­fi­cers Fri­day, end­ing his deadly ram­page at the plant. His state gun li­cense per­mit was re­voked in 2014, Aurora Po­lice Chief Kris­ten Zi­man said.

But he never gave up the .40-cal­iber Smith & Wes­son hand­gun he used in the at­tack. In­ves­ti­ga­tors are still try­ing to de­ter­mine what ex­actly law en­force­ment agen­cies did af­ter that let­ter was sent, Zi­man said.

Illi­nois law­mak­ers who sup­port more gun con­trol mea­sures said Martin was able to keep the gun be­cause of a flaw in the 1968 law that re­quires res­i­dents to get a Firearm Owner’s Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion card, or FOID card, to pur­chase firearms or am­mu­ni­tion. They must pass a back­ground check, but the law does not man­date that po­lice en­sure weapons have been re­moved if a red flag is raised later.

Leg­is­la­tion was in­tro­duced in 2016 to re­quire po­lice go to the homes of gun own­ers who have their FOID cards re­voked and search for the weapons, but it failed over con­cerns it would over­tax po­lice de­part- ments, said Demo­cratic Rep. Kath­leen Wil­lis.

She wants to see a sim­i­lar mea­sure in­tro­duced again.

“Let’s use some com­mon sense. If you have some­one with a felony, ob­vi­ously they are not the best law-abid­ing ci­ti­zens who are go­ing to fol­low through when they get the let­ter and go, ‘oh yeah, here’s my gun, no prob­lem,’ ” Wil­lis said. “We have to have over­sight. That’s the big­gest flaw in the whole sys­tem. We’re ask­ing peo­ple who al­ready have done some­thing wrong, to do some­thing right.”

Last year, Illi­nois joined other states like Cal­i­for­nia in pass­ing a law that al­lows fam­ily mem­bers to pe­ti­tion to have a gun re­moved from a home and a per­son’s per­mit re­voked if they be­lieve they might use it to harm them­selves or oth­ers.

Law­mak­ers are also work­ing to add teeth to restric­tions on the trans­fers of gun own­er­ship from a per­son whose per­mit has been re­voked, Wil­lis said. The change fol­lows a 2018 shoot­ing at a Ten­nessee Waf­fle House in­volv­ing a man who had to give his guns to his fa­ther af­ter his Illi­nois FOID card was re­voked, but his fa­ther later gave them back to him.

Leg­is­la­tors want peo­ple who ob­tain such weapons to sign an af­fi­davit vow­ing to not re­turn the weapons to the orig­i­nal owner.

Martin was no stranger to po­lice in Aurora, where he had been ar­rested six times over the years for what Zi­man de­scribed as “traf­fic and do­mes­tic bat­tery-re­lated is­sues” and for vi­o­lat­ing an or­der of pro­tec­tion.


Crosses are placed for the vic­tims of a mass shoot­ing Sun­day near Henry Pratt Co. man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pany in Aurora, Ill., where sev­eral were killed Fri­day. Au­thor­i­ties say an ini­tial back­ground check five years ago failed to flag an out-of-state felony con­vic­tion that would have pre­vented a man from buy­ing the gun he used in the mass shoot­ing. He did not sur­ren­der the pur­chased gun as was de­manded.

Gary Martin

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