Texas shooter bought gun in private sale, after ban due to mental illness: ABC

A man holds flowers and a candle as people gather for a vigil following Saturday's shooting in Odessa, Texas, U.S. September 1, 2019. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare

(Reuters) – The gunman who killed seven people and wounded 23 others in a rampage across West Texas on Saturday obtained the assault-style rifle used through a private sale after he was banned from having a firearm because he was diagnosed with a mental illness, media reported.

Seth Aaron Ator is pictured in Odessa, Texas, U.S. in this undated handout photo provided by the Odessa Police Department on September 3, 2019. Odessa Police Department/Handout via REUTERS

Seth Aaron Ator is pictured in Odessa, Texas, U.S. in this undated handout photo provided by the Odessa Police Department on September 3, 2019. Odessa Police Department/Handout via REUTERS

The gunman, identified as Seth Aaron Ator, 36, carried out the shooting spree in the neighboring cities of Midland and Odessa, shortly after he was fired from his trucking job. He called local emergency 911 responders and then an FBI tip line to make rambling statements, but did not threaten to commit violence, officials said.

After the calls, Ator opened fire on civilians and police officers in a roving series of shootings, at one point hijacking a U.S. Postal Service truck before dying in an exchange of gunfire with law enforcement, police said.

Ator bought the assault-style rifle through a private sale after being prohibited by federal law from possessing a firearm because he had been diagnosed with a mental illness by a clinician, ABC news reported, citing federal and local law enforcement.

Private firearm sellers are not required to run background checks on potential buyers, but they are not allowed to sell a weapon to a person who has been flagged by law enforcement under federal law.

Democrats in Congress want to close such loopholes that allow certain people to sell firearms without requiring background checks, such as in sales conducted online, at gun shows or out of their homes.

Ator had been rejected when he tried to buy a gun and his name was run through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, said John Wester, assistant special agent in charge of the Dallas office of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

President Donald Trump called the Odessa-Midland shooter “a very sick person,” but said increased background checks on gun buyers would not have prevented many mass shootings in the United States in the past few years.

Trump said last month he had spoken to the National Rifle Association gun rights group about closing loopholes in background checks, but he did not want to take away the constitutional right to own guns.

The rampage followed the Aug. 3 shooting in El Paso, Texas, by a man from the Dallas area, in a massacre that killed 22 people. El Paso is about 255 miles (410 km) west of Midland.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; Editing by Leslie Adler)

UK, allies: empower chemical arms watchdog to assign blame for attacks

British Minister of State for Defence Frederick Richard addresses a special session of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in the Hague, Netherlands June 26, 2018. REUTERS/Yves Herman

By Anthony Deutsch and Toby Sterling

THE HAGUE (Reuters) – Britain’s Foreign Minister Boris Johnson called on Tuesday for all nations to vote to bolster the powers of the chemical weapons watchdog, saying it should be able to assign blame for attacks with banned poison munitions.

The United States and European Union said they would support a draft proposal made by the British delegation at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), while Russia and several of its allies opposed it.

“At present the OPCW’s experts can say where and when an attack happened, but not who was responsible,” Johnson told representatives of more than a hundred countries at a meeting in The Hague. “If we are serious about upholding the ban on chemical weapons that gap must be filled.”

A vote will be held on Wednesday. Decisions must win two-thirds of votes cast to be passed.

The British are seeking to re-galvanize support for an international ban on chemical weapons, which have been used repeatedly in the Syrian civil war. Banned chemicals have also been used by militants on the battlefield in Iraq in recent years, and are suspected in the poisoning of a half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last year in Malaysia and of a former KGB spy and his daughter in England this year.

Russia, Iran and Syria objected to the move and accused the British of breaking OPCW rules. The conference chairman said the British call for a vote was in line with procedures.

Western countries blame Syria’s government for using banned nerve gas in several attacks that killed large numbers of civilians. Russia and Iran are Syria’s main battlefield allies.

Russian representative Georgy Kalamanov called the British proposal “a clear attempt here to manipulate the mandate of the OPCW and to undermine the legal basis on which it stands, with which we fully disagree.”

“We should reflect very seriously on this proposal, and not allow it to undermine the fate of the OPCW,” he said.

The 20-year-old OPCW, which oversees a 1997 treaty banning the use of toxins as weapons, is a technical, scientific body which determines whether chemical weapons were used. It does not have the authority to identify perpetrators.

The British-led proposal was to be debated by roughly 140 countries at a special session of the OPCW that started on Tuesday. The draft proposal, a copy of which was reviewed by Reuters, could thrust the OPCW to the front of a diplomatic confrontation between the West and Moscow which has seen relations deteriorate to their lowest point since the Cold War.

Russia and Indonesia submitted rival proposals, but Western diplomats said they were not believed to have strong political backing. Johnson called for other countries to reject them.

DOZENS KILLED

The meeting comes as OPCW inspectors prepare a report on an alleged poison attack in the Douma enclave near Damascus, Syria, in April that killed dozens and triggered retaliatory air strikes by the United States, France and Britain.

From 2015-2017 a joint United Nations-OPCW team known as the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) had been empowered to identify individuals or institutions behind chemical weapons attacks in Syria. The JIM confirmed that Syrian government troops used the nerve agent sarin and chorine barrel bombs on several occasions, while Islamic State militants were found to have used sulfur mustard.

But at a deadlocked U.N. Security Council, the JIM was disbanded last year, after Moscow used its veto to block several resolutions seeking to renew its mandate beyond November 2017.

“The widespread use of chemical weapons by Syria in particular threatens to undermine the treaty and the OPCW,” said Gregory Koblentz, a non-proliferation expert at George Mason University, in the United States. “Empowering the OPCW to identify perpetrators of chemical attacks is necessary to restoring the taboo against chemical weapons and the integrity of the chemical weapons disarmament regime.”

(Additional reporting by John Irish in Paris; Editing by Richard Balmforth, William Maclean)

Chicago suburb bans ‘assault weapons’ after Florida massacre

FILE PHOTO - AR-15 rifles are displayed for sale at the Guntoberfest gun show in Oaks, Pennsylvania, U.S., October 6, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

(Reuters) – An affluent Chicago suburb has banned the possession, sale and manufacture of “assault weapons” and “large-capacity magazines” in response to the massacre at a Florida high school and other recent mass shootings in the United States.

Residents of Democratic-leaning Deerfield, located about 25 miles north of Chicago, have until June 13 to remove any firearms and magazines that fall outside the new restrictions or face a fine of between $250 and $1,000 per day, according to the ordinance passed by the town board on Monday night.

The ban quickly drew a legal challenge from gun-rights group Guns Save Life, with support from the National Rifle Association, on grounds it violated Americans’ Constitutional rights to own firearms.

The Deerfield ordinance said the ban was a direct response to the Feb. 14 killing of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and the student-led campaign for tighter restrictions on guns inspired by the mass shooting.

“We hope that our local decision helps spur state and national leaders to take steps to make our communities safer,” Deerfield Mayor Harriet Rosenthal said in a statement.

The ban follows a similar 2013 measure enacted by the nearby suburb of Highland Park, located on Chicago’s North Shore, which withstood a challenge that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Opponents were quick to take issue with the ban.

“Every law-abiding villager of Deerfield has the right to protect themselves, their homes, and their loved ones with the firearm that best suits their needs,” Chris Cox, head of the NRA’s lobbying arm, said in a statement.

Opponents of the ban said they fear Deerfield will try to outlaw other firearms.

“First it’s going to be assault rifles. There will be new bans in the future. It’s just a matter of time,” Deerfield resident Larry Nordal told the Chicago Tribune. Nordal did not immediately respond to a request for further comment.

The ban defines assault weapons as a range of firearms such as semiautomatic rifles like the AR-15, a gun similar to the one used in the Florida massacre. High-capacity magazines are defined as those holding more than 10 rounds.

Deerfield High School senior Ariella Kharasch, who supported the legislation, wants more action on local and national levels.

“This is our generation’s fight. We’re going to keep fighting and this is part of it,” Kharasch told the Chicago Tribune. “Change happens gradually step by step.”

(Reporting by Andrew Hay; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Leslie Adler)