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KPBS Midday Edition Segments

Synagogue Shooting Suspect Had Invalid License To Buy Gun

 August 15, 2019 at 10:41 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 The teenager accused of the mass shooting at the Habbat of Poway in April is scheduled to appear in court for a preliminary hearing on Monday, 19 year old. John Earnest is facing multiple charges in state and federal court, including murder and attempted murder for the shooting in which one woman was killed and three others injured. Among those charges are firearms violations. A search warrant initially revealed that the alleged shooter had a hunting certificate, but this week a state senator told 10 news that Ernest did not have a valid hunting license that would have been required to legally purchase an ar 15 rifle. It was previously claimed the weapon was legally purchased from a San Diego gun shop. Joining me is Jonathan Horne reporter with 10 news and Jonathan, welcome to the program. Speaker 2: 00:48 Thanks for having me, Maureen. Speaker 1: 00:50 How do we know that the accused shooter did not have a valid hunting license? Speaker 2: 00:54 Well, we found out in two ways. On Monday, I spoke to state Senator Anthony Portantino and he told me that the Department of Justice and fish and wildlife told him that Ernest did not have a valid hunting license, which you would need to buy that rifle at 19 years old unless you're military or police. However we knew he was not, so that's the first thing we found out. Then the next day I called fish and wildlife and they confirmed that the hunting license that Ernest had would not have been valid until July 1st of this year. Then as we all know, he carried out the attack on April 27th which would have been before it went into effect Speaker 1: 01:33 and do we know when and where he purchased the rifle? Speaker 2: 01:36 We do. He purchased it from San Diego guns, which is on Mission Gorge Road receipts show about $960 he picked it up on April 26th and allegedly carried out the attack the next day on April 27th which again was before July 1st Speaker 1: 01:50 what did the store have to say about the sale of the rifle? Speaker 2: 01:53 Well, it was interesting. I called the store on Tuesday. They were closed on Monday when the story first broke and I spoke to an employee very briefly and I told him what I was going to report that that Ernest did not have the valid hunting license and the employee said, no, no, we did everything possible. We did everything we could. He basically said they did everything by the book, but our reporting bears that something along the pipeline must've failed. Speaker 1: 02:17 Did a state Senator Portantino say why he allowed for a hunting license exception in this bill that prohibited the sale of firearms to people under the age of 21 Speaker 2: 02:27 I did ask him that and the essential answer I got was that the politics at the time dictated that he include that hunting exemption in the bill. He indicated to me that governor Jerry Brown likely would not have signed the bill if it did not have that hunting exception. Speaker 1: 02:42 Is this a loophole that he wants to close? Speaker 2: 02:45 In a sense he wants to change it. What he is going to do over the next month. The legislative session ends in early September is he is going to take away the exemption for center fire style assault. And so if you're under 21 and above 18 and want to buy a firearm for hunting, you will not be able to buy that Ar 15 style weapon that Ernest allegedly used in the attack. And is that likely to get support in the legislature and the signature of the governor? Well, we certainly know it could get the signature of the governor because on Friday he was in San Diego and he was asked about this and his comment at the microphone was, if you are old enough, if you're not old enough to buy a beer, enough said. So it sounds like he would sign this. Now the alleged shooter is facing the state and federal charges that I said earlier, he's pleaded not guilty. Speaker 2: 03:37 He's expected to be in court on Monday. What can we expect? Well, I think it's more administrative at this time, but I imagine we're going to be going to court a lot and hearing all sorts of things. Summer Stephan was talking to our reporter, Anthony Perro last night, and we asked her about the gun validity issue and she said that she could not comment. She didn't want to, uh, respect the investigation, but she said it will eventually come out. And how he got the gun will eventually be very clear. Okay. I've been speaking with Jonathan Horne. I reported with 10 news. Jonathan, thanks very much. Thank you. Maureen.

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It's unclear how John T. Earnest, 19, bought the gun. The hunting license was not set to go into effect until July 1, according to the California Fish and Wildlife Department.
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