MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek said he would like the legislature to take a look at gun laws that allowed someone to buy guns for the man who shot two New Hope police officers.
Ray Kmetz was barred from owning guns because he had a history of mental illness.
He walked into New Hope city hall a week ago today, shooting and wounding the two officers who were at a swearing in ceremony.
Police then shot back, killing Kmetz.
Investigators said Kmetz purchased the guns online and then had someone else pick them up.
That someone else was Michael Garant, who later gave the guns to Kmetz.
Garant was arrested but let go because what he did wasn’t against state law.
Under state law, prosecutors would have to prove that the man who picked up the guns for Kmetz knew he was mentally ill and that could be hard to prove.
This case is an example of how someone who is not supposed to be able to purchase a gun can manipulate the system.
Stanek said he is hearing from a lot of people who are angry that Kmetz was able to use a straw buyer to purchase guns. Stanek said,
“It shocks the conscience of a lot of folks,” he said. “For him to be able to access those three long guns, including one that was used to shoot the police officers, absolutely shocks the conscience.”
Kmetz purchased the guns online. Under federal law, the guns were shipped to a federal firearms dealer. But it was Garant who picked them up from licensed gun dealer Troy Buchholz.
“He gave me his bidder number, and I looked it up, and I said, ‘It says here, “Ray Kmetz,”‘ and he said, ‘That’s just my online bidder name. I didn’t want people calling and bothering me. I don’t want people emailing me.”
Buchholtz said it’s common for people to use a different name online. Garant then passed the background check.
Under state law, prosecutors would have to show that Garant knew Kmetz was mentally ill and couldn’t own a gun.
“It would be very hard to prove,” defense attorney Joe Tamburino said. “To know that someone’s had a mental health history — meaning that they’ve been, say, institutionalized, they’re suffering from a mental illness — that’s something that is very private.”
Stanek said he would like the legislature to take a look at tightening state law.
“I encourage our public policy makers and our state legislature, while they are now in session, to take a look at it,” he said.
Rep. Tony Cornish, the powerful chair of the Public Safety Committee, said he sees no need for any changes to current state law.
The firearm dealer in this case said he’s making a change. Buchholz said he will no longer sell a gun to someone who uses a different name online.
Stanek is hoping that Garant will be charged under federal law.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office isn’t commenting. Garant could not be reached for comment.