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Travis Reinking, the Waffle House Shooter (Part 2 of 2): Will His Father Be Charged for Returning the Guns?

By now, most—if not all readers—will know who Travis Reinking is. He opened fire in a Waffle House in Tennessee, killing several. The firearms he obtained and used in the shooting were taken from him by the Tazewell County Sheriff's Department, but were returned to his father, who lives in Tazewell County. Part 1 of this blog series discussed the legalities of the Sheriff's Department returning Travis Reinking's firearms to his father. This part in the series will discuss the legalities of Reinking's father returning his firearms, and the criminal liability his father could face. Although Illinois, Tennessee, and federal law are potentially involved in this case, this article will limit itself to only Illinois and federal law, as we are unlicensed in the State of Tennessee.

As of the time of writing this blog, lots of news media has covered the story, and reporters struggled to understand Illinois' complex gun laws, especially in relation to federal law. In fact, Brendan Bukalski, our Managing Partner, personally spoke with reporters from the Associated Press, Buzzfeed, and The Huffington Post to explain gun laws in the State of Illinois to them. Although they sought quotes from others, their articles were, at least, accurate after they spoke with me. However, that cannot be said of every article on the subject. This blog article will hopefully clear up some of the issues out there about the possible consequences from Travis Reinking's father.

Travis Reinking's father received the firearms from the Tazewell County Sheriff's Department as his son's designee, about which there really is not anything illegal. In the State of Illinois at that time, Travis Reinking was not allowed to possess firearms, but he then moved to the State of Tennessee. At some point during this time, we know that Travis Reinking was not subject to a federal firearms prohibition as well. Provided that Travis Reinking could lawfully possess the firearms in Tennessee, the return of the firearms to him by his father could be perfectly legal.

That is not to say that there is no chance of his father possibly being charged. Whether or not Travis Reinking's father can be charged with a crime depends largely on where that transfer occurred, and what his father knew. For example, because Reinking was not allowed to possess firearms in Illinois, it would be a violation of Illinois law for his father to return the firearms to him if it occurred in the State of Illinois. If, however, Travis Reinking's father drove the firearms to Tennessee to return them to Reinking, then there would be no violation of Illinois law, depending on what his father knew and how they were driven there.

Under Illinois law, a person could be charged with a felony for transferring firearms to someone not allowed to possess them, and, depending on the number of firearms, could even be charged with gunrunning. It could even violate federal law potentially if the firearms were not properly stored when crossing state lines. Either way, it could also be possible under both Illinois and federal law that Reinking's father could be charged as an accomplice. All of this is guessing, because there are ongoing investigations.

Why so much depends is because we do not know how the firearms were transferred, what Travis Reinking's father knew or when he knew it, much less where the transfer occurred. What Reinking's father knew is so important, because if his father knew of Reinking's intent and he still delivered the firearms to Reinking, then it's possible that could be a conspiracy under Illinois law. Knowledge and when that knowledge was acquired are central to almost all criminal charges. For example, if Reinking's father knew his son wanted the guns to shoot people and returned the gun after learning this, then he could be charged as an accomplice to the shooting. Similarly, if he did not learn this until after the return of the firearms, then the opposite conclusion is true.

Whether or not Travis Reinking's father will be charged with a crime remains to be seen, and investigations by multiple authorities are ongoing. Some facts are clear, while others remain unknown, at least by us and the media at large. Any criminal charge can depend on a lot, and this is especially true when people cross state lines. As more information comes out, we'll seek to update this blog with results and discussion of the legalities involved.

Copyright © 2018 by Brendan Bukalski

The information provided in this column is general in nature, and should not be relied upon as legal advice or interpreted as creating an attorney-client relationship . As a general rule, all specific legal problems should be handled by an individual's attorney. All rights reserved. Any copying, duplication, or commercial use of the information contained in this column is strictly prohibited without prior permission.