- Associated Press - Monday, December 8, 2014

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) - An ex-convict who killed four people last week purchased the weapon used in the shootings from another West Virginian who listed the gun for sale online.

Jody Lee Hunt, 39, of Monongalia County purchased the 9mm handgun about a year ago, according to George Huffman, Public Information Officer for the Louisville field division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which oversees the agency’s operations in Kentucky and West Virginia. Huffman said the agency traced Hunt’s gun to another Monongalia County resident. He would not name the resident who sold Hunt the gun. He said the unnamed resident listed the gun for sale on Facebook.

Police say Hunt killed 45-year-old Douglas Brady, 43-year-old Jody Taylor, 28-year-old Michael Frum and 39-year-old Sharon Berkshire on the morning of Dec. 1 before leading police on a 12-hour manhunt. Hunt was found dead in his truck around 7:30 that night. Authorities believe he committed suicide.

Police have said Hunt killed Brady because the two towing operators were involved in a business feud. They said the other victims had been involved with Berkshire, who was Hunt’s ex-girlfriend.

Hunt, a Westover resident, was owner of J&J; Towing in Westover. A convicted felon with criminal records in West Virginia, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, Hunt was barred from purchasing or carrying a firearm. In Virginia, Hunt was sentenced to 10 years in prison for felony kidnapping and use of a firearm in 1999.

Stephen G. Fischer Jr., an FBI spokesman who works with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System or NICS, said Hunt was able to purchase a firearm because West Virginia allows sales between individuals without a background check.

Sales between two individuals who are not registered as gun dealers with a federal firearm license don’t require a NICS check, Fischer said. He said checks are only required when a licensed gun dealer sells a firearm.

Huffman said the seller who sold Hunt the handgun will not be charged with a crime.

“Federal law prohibits people from knowingly giving or selling guns to convicted felons,” Huffman said. “But the key word is knowingly.”

ATF’s investigation showed that Hunt and the seller did not know each other, Huffman said, and that there was no indication the seller knew Hunt was prohibited from owning a firearm.

Ladd Everitt, director of communications at Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, a Washington D.C. nonprofit gun control advocacy group in Washington D.C., said Hunt’s firearm purchase indicates a broader problem with the background check system.

“When convicted felons like Jody Lee Hunt are unable to pass background checks, weak gun laws give them an easy pass to acquire weapons with no accountability,” he said.

Democratic U.S. Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia offered similar thoughts.

“I believe in commonsense criminal background checks for online gun purchases, which could help prevent tragedies similar to what took place in Morgantown last week,” he said. “I will continue to work with law-abiding gun owners to prevent senseless acts of violence like this from occurring, while also protecting Second Amendment rights.”

John R. Lott, Jr., author of More Guns Less Crime, doesn’t think Hunt’s gun purchase indicates that gun regulations should change.

He said studies consistently show that background checks don’t reduce violent crime, but they can produce “false positive” results that block law-abiding citizens from purchasing a gun.

NICS data provided to the AP shows that about 1.25 percent of those whose names are submitted to NICS for background checks are initially denied the right to purchase a firearm. About half of those denials are later overturned after appeal.

The additional time it takes to identify law-abiding gun purchasers “can disarm law-abiding citizens and make them more vulnerable to violent crime,” Lott said.

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