Recently, Carver County sheriffs uncovered an arsenal of firearms in the hands of a mentally ill man, Christian Oberender, who was previously convicted of killing his mother at the age of 14. Oberender was in and out of psychiatric facilities until the age of 18 and then was deemed by a judge to be “mentally ill and dangerous.” Along with a Tommy gun, shotguns, an AK-47, and semi-automatic rifles there was also a disturbing letter and notes discussing the recent Newtown, CT shooting found in Oberender’s home. Sheriffs were alarmed on how such a mentally ill person could illegally possess certain types of weapons deemed as dangerous, especially when Minnesota laws are meant to prevent these types of weapon possessions.
In Minnesota, if a person would like to obtain an assault weapon or pistol, an application must be submitted to local police or the sheriff’s office. Once the application is submitted, a background check occurs. The background check includes an inquiry using Minnesota’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (“BCA”) Division. This system, known as the Computerized Criminal History System (“CCH”), provides a central repository consisting of data on persons arrested for felony, gross misdemeanor, enhanced misdemeanor and some misdemeanor offense.
If the system is working properly, then individuals such as Oberender are red-flagged and would be prevented from obtaining gun permits. However, in this case, Oberender was able to cheat the system by improperly reporting his full name and lying about his mental health history. Since no red flags were raised on Oberender within the mandatory 7-day wait period, a permit was automatically granted as required by law. Traditionally, lawmakers have been reluctant to tighten guns laws due to fear of accusations of trampling citizen’s Constitutional rights.
With the recent mass shootings and focus on gun control by lawmakers in America, there is still uncertainty from lawmakers on the direction that gun control will take in the near future. While there is certainly a public safety interest in wanting to keep certain weapons out of the hands of certain types of criminals and those that are mentally ill, there is also a desire from the public and lawmakers alike to maintain America’s tradition of the right to bear arms. If you desire to possess your own personal weapons, It is important to know your rights and the current laws regarding weapons possession. Contact the experienced criminal law attorneys at Keyser Law Firm for additional information.