Watch CBSN Live

Capitol Shooter Has Gun Permit

Russell Weston bragged he was the son of John F. Kennedy, reports CBS News Correspondent Jim Stewart. He spoke to satellite dishes because he thought they carried his voice to Washington. He threatened neighbors. He'd been arrested and one day he was finally packed off by the state of Montana to a mental institution.

But despite all that, on the day of the Capitol Hill shootings, records show Weston had a valid permit from his home state of Illinois to buy all the guns and ammunition he pleased.

The reason for that according to Illinois State Police Dir. Gene Marlin, is that Weston lied on this gun permit application last year when he circled "No" to the question of whether he had ever been a mental patient. And when Illinois went to check it out, says Marlin, Montana's privacy laws forbid it from telling other states that, in fact, Weston had been ordered into a mental institution for a 90-day evaluation in 1996.

"The mental health laws in Montana are very strict, and they do not share those types of commitments with law enforcement in Montana, or with ourselves, obviously. So any checks we ran - which we did in Montana - came out negative," he said.

It happens all the time, say lawmen. Committment to a mental institution means automatic denial of a gun permit. However, states rarely tell each other about such records.

It's a Catch-22 that Rusty Weston and many others walk through every day said gun control analyst Tom Diaz.

"There are a lot of guns, there are many mentally unstable people - not to mention other categories, criminals - and we don't have a system yet that will keep the two apart. That is the problem," he said.

There is one more footnote about Weston's gun permit: there is no record he ever actually purchased a gun in Illinois. He didn't need to, it seems. His family collected guns. When he left on his final drive to Washington, he just took one of theirs.

Reported by Jim Stewart
©1998, CBS Worldwide Inc., All Rights Reserved