The man who killed two women at a Louisiana movie theater last week was able to buy a firearm legally — despite a judge’s order sending him to a psychiatric hospital in 2008 — because he was never involuntarily committed for treatment, Georgia officials said Monday.

An involuntary commitment would have banned John Russell Houser from buying a firearm under the federal gun law that strengthened state reporting requirements after a mass shooting at Virginia Tech in 2007. But Houser never reached the crucial stage of having a judge rule on his mental competence, a process called adjudication, which is required before someone can be involuntarily committed to a psychiatric facility, officials said.

“If he had been adjudicated in need of involuntary treatment, I would have reported that to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, who would then send it to the FBI,” said Muscogee County Probate Judge Marc E. D’Antonio, who was chief clerk at the time in the county that would have handled the case. “I clearly would have known. That did not happen.”

What did happen remains unclear. A state health official declined to say whether Houser was released from the West Central Georgia Regional Hospital or whether he voluntarily agreed to remain there for treatment. Mental health records are not open for public review.

Either way, Houser’s purchase of a .40-caliber semiautomatic handgun at a pawnshop in Phenix City, Ala., last year was legal. Houser, 59, killed himself after the rampage on Thursday in Lafayette, La., that left two dead and nine injured.

This situation just should not have happened.  This guy was obviously crazier than a bucket of bat you-know-what.   I am confused by the involuntary committal vs all the loopholes that kept the judge from reporting.    Somewhere we have to draw the line between people who go to counselling for help over some rough patches and people who are seriously mentally ill.

I don’t know why it is so difficult to determine if someone is dangerous.  If people are dangerous, then slap them on a “no guns list.”  Have an appeals process that is easy to access but that has some teeth in it.  That’s a good place to start.  Sane people don’t usually go on killing sprees.

I would like to add frequent intoxication to the “no guns list.”   No, I don’t want state officials sitting outside bars taking count of how often people go in.  However, DUI pull overs might just be a place to start.  I don’t think one DUI should put you on the no gun list but 2 or 3 in a given time period should.  Think of all the times the person wasn’t caught.  Alcohol and guns do not mix well.

I would like to see gun advocates and organizations start talking about these situations in real terms rather than slogans and sound bites.  Often these people are not “bad guys.”  They are perfectly decent people with illnesses that lead them to do very bad things.

10 Thoughts to “Gun loophole that needs to be plugged”

  1. Cargosquid

    This is the same problem that happened with Cho, of VA Tech infamy.

    The gun advocacy groups have actually called for more clarity and enforcement. But the ACLU fights it. In fact, the ACLU was behind the repeal of a law that would have allowed Mrs. Lanza to more easily institutionalize Adam.

    As for intoxication….. being drunk while abusing a gun will get you arrested. Carrying a gun in public while drunk will get you arrested. But being drunk should not remove a civil liberty of owning a gun.

    Houser was charged with conspiracy to commit arson. The man he “hired” was a police informer. Why was Houser not in jail?

    1. Being drunk occasionally shouldn’t prevent gun ownership but being an habitual offender should make gun ownership a lot more difficult.

      I realize that two powerful forces are fighting on this one. That’s why I hate both. They are preventing common sense laws. We need to screen out people who shouldn’t own or possess weapons.

      Just as an aside, would Mrs. Lanza have institutionalized her son? I am thinking no. She was more of an enabler, it seemed like.

      I can’t help but say that I think you would be more than willing to remove the civil liberty of having an abortion from any woman. No, its not the same thing but to women, making their own reproductive choices is pretty important and economically critical.

  2. Steve Thomas


    Cargo is correct. The pro-gun organizations to which I belong either support or are neutral on making Courts report commitments to mental health facilities. It is the ACLU and NAMI that lobby against these laws.

    Lanza’s mother was in the process of having her son civilly committed, and there was a hearing scheduled. She was executed by her son, before the date of the hearing. Whether or not this was what pushed her son over the edge is unknown.

    1. Committing people shouldn’t be that difficult. Yes, there should be checks and balances but family members know when someone just shouldn’t be loose. Ask Creigh Deeds.

  3. Ed Myers

    I prefer insurance companies to make the decision on whether someone is fit to own a gun. That way we don’t have to politically fight over whose rights are more important — gun ownership, privacy about one’s mental health or safety from crime. General economic utility created by insurance companies required to pay out compensation to those who are injured or killed by the misuse of guns and charging gun owners premiums according to risk will determine which right is more important to society. Voting with our checkbooks….

    Stolen guns are the result of poor security by the original owner so if insurance is still required to pay even if the gun is stolen and used in a crime the insurance company will require manufacturers to make stolen guns unusable. An insurance company might use GPS tracking like we do for cars and cellphones to keep track of guns and retrieve stolen ones or remotely disable them. If gun owners needed to have insurance for their guns many guns acquired only for a collection would be permanently disabled to save on insurance costs and thus useless if stolen.

  4. Emma

    That’s a great idea. May I also propose that we let insurance companies decide other types of life-or-death issues, such as the healthcare treatments you are allowed to get, based on your medical history? (Oh, wait we tried that. How did that work out?)

    Damn, that Constitution is pesky for you. One wonders how can you stand to live in this country.

  5. Steve Thomas

    “Damn, that Constitution is pesky for you. One wonders how can you stand to live in this country.”

    Every pack has an Omega. When confronted the Omega rolls over, exposes his belly, and urinates on himself. Its nature.

  6. Cargosquid

    “despite a judge’s order sending him to a psychiatric hospital in 2008”

    That is the very definition of an involuntary adjudication.

    That judge is trying to cover his butt.

    The state failed to provide the info.


    Furthermore, the shooter lied on the 4473 about being incarcerated in a mental facility.
    Federal crime. Did not get the gun legally.

  7. Cargosquid

    More research.

    Now the judge is saying that she DID NOT order him. That she has no jurisdiction over the hospital where he was.

    Something is screwy.

  8. Steve Thomas


    “Something is screwy”

    Indeed. Lot’s of folks running for cover, deflecting and diverting.

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