Breaking News Emails
The gunman who opened fire in a Louisiana movie theater should not have been allowed to legally buy the gun he used to kill two people and injure nine because of his mental history, Gov. Bobby Jindal said Sunday.
Shooter John Houser "should have never been able to buy that gun,” Jindal told NBC News. "That should have never been able to happen."
Houser had been involuntarily hospitalized for mental conditions in Georgia and denied a concealed weapons permit in Alabama in 2006 because of a domestic violence complaint and a previous arrest connected to an arson plot.
Jim Cavanaugh, a retired Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent and now NBC News security analyst, said those red flags should have kept Houser from buying a gun in any state.
"If he's adjudicated as a danger to himself or others, or not able to handle his affairs due to his mental capacity, he is also barred from having a firearm," Cavanaugh said.
Still, Houser was able to legally buy a Hi-Point .40-caliber handgun in Alabama in 2014. And that is the gun he used to fire more than a dozen shots into a Thursday night movie audience of about 25 people before killing himself, officials said.
It is unclear whether officials in Georgia filed records about Houser's involuntary hospitalization, which would have been funneled to the FBI's database and therefore surfaced during a background check in any state, according to The Associated Press.
“Obviously somebody with this kind of history should have never been able to buy a gun,” Jindal said, noting that Louisiana laws would have prevented Houser from legally buying a gun.
In order to acquire a concealed handgun license in Louisiana, an applicant must “not suffer from a mental or physical infirmity due to disease,” according to the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections. But private owners and gun show sellers aren’t required to perform background checks to determine the mental health and arrest history of prospective gun buyers.
In the immediate wake of the shooting, Jindal, who is running for president and is generally known as pro-gun (the NRA last gave him an "A+" rating), declined to speak on gun policy, saying he wanted to give Lafayette a chance to grieve.
Authorities have yet to determine a motive for why Houser chose to attack people at the showing of “Trainwreck,” why he chose to target Lafayette and why he picked a Thursday evening.
Investigators have said that Houser may have visited the theater that was the site of the violence and other movie theaters in the area before the attack, and Louisiana State Police superintendent Col. Michael Edmonson said that the gunman had written down, in a journal, the date, time and place of where he chose to carry out the shooting.
Edmonson said Houser’s journals also included “off-the-wall comments.”
Houser’s brother told NBC news on Saturday that the family knew he had mental health issues, but didn’t think he was capable of such violence.