Criminal Justice

Why police returned a gun to the man later accused in Fort Lauderdale airport shooting

gun law book

For 31 days, police in Anchorage, Alaska, held the gun later used by Fort Lauderdale shooting suspect, Esteban Santiago.

Police seized the gun after Santiago visited an FBI office on Nov. 7, report CNN, the Washington Post and the Miami Herald. Santiago said the CIA was trying to control his mind and was making him watch ISIS videos. Police took Santiago to a mental health facility for an evaluation.

Federal law paved the way for return of the gun to Santiago, according to CNN.

According to CNN legal analyst Paul Callan, the law gives Santiago the right to own a gun unless there was some kind of court order requiring involuntary commitment. The federal Gun Control Act bars people from owning a gun if they have been “adjudicated as a mental defective or has been committed to any mental institution.”

“People who submit to voluntary mental health treatment don’t lose their right to possess firearms under current U.S. law,” Callan said.

Anchorage U.S. Attorney Karen Loeffler also cited federal law in explaining why Santiago was allowed to check his weapon for the flight. A person must be adjudicated as mentally ill before he or she can be banned from checking a weapon, she told the Miami Herald. Air travelers can check unloaded guns in a locked, hard-sided container.

Some states have stricter laws on gun ownership by people who are voluntarily committed to a mental health facility. Alaska, however, follows federal law.

Santiago, who is accused of killing five people at the Fort Lauderdale airport, appeared in court on Monday. He was ordered held without bond pending a detention hearing next week.

We welcome your comments, but please adhere to our comment policy and the ABA Code of Conduct.

Leave a comment
Your screen name.
Your email address.