The Corner

W. Va. Man Banned from Gun Ownership Gets Around Background Check, Shoots Sheriff

On the morning that Senator Joe Manchin (D., W. Va.) and three other senators unveiled a proposed amendment to implement broader federal background checks, a West Virginia county prosecutor said that a man suspected of shooting a sheriff was already prohibited from owning a gun because of his mental-health history, but managed to purchase one anyway through a process that already requires a background check.

Tennis Melvin Maynard is accused of shooting Mingo County sheriff Eugene Crum as he ate lunch in his squad car last week. According to the Charleston Gazette, the county prosecutor “confirmed today that Maynard bought the gun at a local gun store.” 

While the official, C. Michael Sparks, wasn’t allowed to say why the suspect was not allowed to purchase or own a gun, Maynard’s father said his son had mental-health problems and had been institutionalized in the past. By law, Maynard was barred from buying and owning a gun because of his stay in a mental institution. He was also found to have other firearms in his possession after his arrest. 

Even if Maynard lied on the form he completed when he was buying the gun, according to state officials, the background check should have caught the disqualifying issues in his past, because they automatically show up when a check is run against the FBI’s database. The Gazette spoke to a West Virginia mental-health official who explained that “West Virginia has one of the most sophisticated systems in the country for reporting the mentally ill to the FBI for federal background checks on gun purchases.”

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