Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Monday that Seth Ator failed a background check before carrying out a shooting rampage Saturday in West Texas.
In a tweet Monday, Abbott also said that Ator, 36, did not undergo a background check to buy the gun he used in the shooting. The Republican governor did not say why Ator failed to pass the background check or how he obtained the AR-type rifle he used to kill seven people and wound 22 others, including a baby girl and three law enforcement officers.
Abbott shared a local news report noting that Ator had a criminal record.
”We must keep guns out of criminals’ hands,” he said:
Not only did the Odessa gunman have a criminal history…
…he also previously failed a gun purchase background check in Texas…
…& he didn’t go thru a background check for the gun he used in Odessa.
We must keep guns out of criminals’ hands. https://t.co/vgrqcHtBtF
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) September 2, 2019
Authorities agreed Ator had once applied to buy a gun but was denied. They did not discuss the details of that transaction.
The governor did not immediately respond to Pluralist’s request for comment.
Greg Abbott likes guns
Abbott has long been a staunch defender of gun rights. At a press conference Sunday about the Odessa shooting, Abbott defended new state laws that went into effect that day to ease restrictions on Texas gun owners.
“Some of these laws were enacted to make our communities safer,” he said, pointing to one law, Texas House Bill 1387, which will allow schools to hire more armed security guards.
Abbott also argued against passing legislation that would limit access to assault rifles, saying that they would do nothing to prevent mass shootings like Saturday’s or one last month in El Paso. He noted that the shooter who killed 10 people at a high school in a Houston suburb last May, for example, used a handgun.
President Donald Trump made a similar argument Sunday.
“Over the last five, six, or seven years, no matter how strong you need the background checks, it wouldn’t have stopped any of it,” he told reporters.
On the other hand, gun control advocates have criticized Texas’ new gun laws. Along with 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, they have held that background checks and other regulations on firearms are the only way to reduce mass shootings and gun violence.
Kris Brown, president of the gun-control group Brady, on Sunday criticized Texas’ new laws and blamed the NRA for their passage.
“Many states took the opportunity in the last two years to learn lessons from the tragedies in Las Vegas, Sutherland Springs, Parkland, and the everyday gun violence that plagues our citizens, and enacted new laws to protect public safety through expanded background checks and extreme risk laws,” Brown told CNN. “Texas lawmakers, instead … doubled down on an NRA-led agenda to encourage guns everywhere, no matter the risks and costs to safety.”
The Odessa shooter failed more than a background check
As Abbott alluded to in his tweet, in 2001, Ator was arrested for evading arrest and criminal trespass in McLennan County, Texas, according to online court records.
Ator was again arrested by the Odessa police for public intoxication in 2014, The New York Times reported.
In 2017, two years after his older sister committed suicide, Seth Ator received a misdemeanor traffic violation in Ector County, which includes Odessa, the Times said. The charge was dismissed after he fought it in court, records showed.
However, in Texas, only convictions for felonies or domestic violence misdemeanors block people from legally buying gun. Licensed dealers in the state must conduct background checks through the national system. But there are exceptions, including for private sales between individuals and if the buyer already has a Texas concealed carry license for a handgun.
Odessa Police Chief Michael Gerke on Monday said Ator had been fired from his job just before the shooting. Gerke said Ator and his boss at an oilfield services company got into a verbal altercation, and both Ator and the company called 911 to report the incident. Ator also called the FBI’s tip line, Gerke said.
A few hours later, Texas state troopers pulled Ator over in Midland for not using his turn signal, police said.
Ator then fired out the back window of his vehicle, injuring one trooper, the Texas Department of Public Safety said in a statement. Next, he drove off, spraying gunfire indiscriminately.
At one point, Ator abandoned his vehicle and hijacked a postal service van, mortally wounding 29-year-old postal carrier Mary Grandos in the process.
Ator later died in a shootout with police in the parking lot of a Midland movie theater.