Law-enforcement officials announced they have identified a person of interest they presume of illegally manufacturing and selling the rifle utilized in Saturday’s mass shooting in West Texas.
Authorities were in the process of investigating the Lubbock, Texas, man, whose identity remains withheld, and were attempting to interview him late Wednesday at his residence, officials said.
The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives has been trying to determine how Seth Aaron Ator was able to obtain the AR-15-style rifle he handled to kill seven people and wound 22 before police shot and killed him.
Ator, 36 years old, was forbidden under federal law from maintaining a firearm because a court had previously found him mentally unfit, law-enforcement officials earlier stated. He had sought to purchase a gun in January 2014 but failed because a nationwide criminal-background-check system signaled the mental-health determination by a local court and blocked the purchase.
Authorities suspect the Lubbock man sold Ator the gun through a private sale. Such a sale allowed Ator to purchase a gun without going through a criminal background check. Gun-control proponents have frequently complained that private sales are a hole in the background-check system that should be addressed.
It is unclear whether the man knew Ator was a prohibited person when selling him the rifle. If the gun dealer did, in fact, comprehend that Ator was barred from buying guns, he could be charged with a federal crime. But authorities are also looking into whether the man was illegally selling guns.
While private gun sales are protected under federal law, it is a crime to be in the business of manufacturing or selling guns without a license. Law-enforcement officials suspect the man was obtaining various gun parts to produce his own guns and then reselling them, all without having a legal license to do so.
Ator shot 29 people as he drove between Odessa and Midland, Tx. on Saturday afternoon, shooting at random and hijacking a U.S. Postal Service van, authorities stated. He died after officers ambushed and shot him outside a movie theater.