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‘Red flag’ gun law might prevent carnage

Travis Reinking is suspected of killing four people in a shooting at a restaurant in Antioch, Tenn.Lacy Atkins/The Tennessean/AP

AUTHORITIES DON’T KNOW why Travis Reinking allegedly went to a Waffle House in Antioch, Tenn., and opened fire Sunday, killing four people and injuring others. What they do know is that the suspect never should have had access to the AR-15 style weapon reportedly used in the mass shooting.

Last year, that assault rifle, along with three other firearms and ammunition, were seized by law enforcement officials. Weeks earlier, Reinking, who had a history of erratic behavior, was arrested for breaching a White House security barrier. Still, even after his firearm owner’s ID card was revoked, Reinking was allowed to decide who could keep his guns — he chose his father, who returned them to his son.


The Waffle House tragedy highlights why strong “red flag” laws should be implemented nationwide.

Earlier this month in Massachusetts, a legislative committee recommended passage of a bill that would allow courts to keep guns out of the hands of people deemed dangerous.

“It is abundantly clear that the people want their legislators to create a meaningful mechanism for intervention when a gun owner is determined to pose an extreme risk to themselves or others,” Janet Goldenberg, cochair of the Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, said in a statement.

Under state Representative Marjorie Decker’s bill, family members or law enforcement could petition a court to seize a person’s firearms. If a judge rules that person is a threat to himself or others, a temporary extreme-risk protection would allow guns to be confiscated. Within two weeks, the gun owner can appear at a formal hearing, and if a judge declares that person still poses a “a significant danger” of inflicting harm, the order could be extended for a year.

Reinking, who was captured in Tennessee Monday after a manhunt, was known to authorities in both Illinois, where he lived until last fall, and Tennessee. Various police reports described him as “delusional” and as “hostile toward police.” His parents shared fears with police that their son could be a danger to himself. The elder Reinking, who told officials he would keep the guns away from his son, may now face charges.


In Antioch, even greater carnage was avoided when James Shaw Jr., a Waffle House patron, wrestled the gun from the shooter. A common-sense “red flag” law might have prevented any carnage at all.