Waffle House Shooting Underscores How Gun Laws Vary From State To State Travis Reinking's guns were seized in Illinois, but he may have broken no laws by having those guns — including an AR-15 — when he moved to Tennessee late last year.
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Waffle House Shooting Underscores How Gun Laws Vary From State To State

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Waffle House Shooting Underscores How Gun Laws Vary From State To State

Waffle House Shooting Underscores How Gun Laws Vary From State To State

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

This week's shooting at a Waffle House may have exposed some gaps in law enforcement. The shooting suspect was once arrested by the Secret Service at the White House. He'd also had his firearms license revoked in Illinois, and yet he appeared to possess firearms legally in Tennessee. Here is Meribah Knight from member station WPLN in Nashville.

MERIBAH KNIGHT, BYLINE: Despite red flags at nearly every level of law enforcement, there is little consensus on whether it was illegal for 29-year-old shooting suspect Travis Reinking to possess firearms, even among law enforcement officials who are directly involved, like Nashville police Chief Steve Anderson.

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STEVE ANDERSON: They would not have been lawfully in his hands in Illinois. Now, possessing them in Tennessee, I don't know that he would've violated any Tennessee law.

KNIGHT: But Marcus Watson, a Nashville agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, said unequivocally that in Tennessee, Reinking should not have had weapons. Reinking's Illinois firearms license was taken away at the urging of the FBI after he was caught inside a restricted area at the White House. He apparently wanted a meeting with President Trump and refused to leave. Matt Espenshade, a Nashville-based FBI agent, said at the time, the agency did everything it could to restrict Reinking's access to guns.

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MATT ESPENSHADE: In coordination with the Secret Service and state and local law enforcement, the FBI took investigative steps to include database reviews and interviews.

KNIGHT: Espenshade said the bureau closed the case in October of 2017.

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ESPENSHADE: I feel confident that the FBI took the appropriate steps and did everything within our federal jurisdiction.

KNIGHT: However, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the state agency that approves background checks for firearm purchases, says there was no indication of a felony conviction or mental health restriction that would have prevented Reinking from obtaining a gun in Tennessee. The state does not require a permit or license to have firearms. Some Democratic lawmakers want to make it a misdemeanor under Tennessee law for people to possess firearms after they've been ordered elsewhere to give them up. However, the measure is unlikely to pass in a Republican-dominated legislature. For NPR News, I'm Meribah Knight in Nashville.

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