Nebraska Target shooting highlights gaps in gun laws

OMAHA, Nebraska (AP) — During the last three years of his life, Joseph Jones was repeatedly sent to a mental institution for schizophrenia and delusions that drug cartels were targeting him. A Nebraska man once lay down on a highway in Kansas wanting to be run over by a truck when police pulled him over as he ran in front of his car. Again and again, his family and police took away his gun.

However, Jones was able to legally continue to purchase firearms, and law enforcement could do little. His gun was confiscated, but keeping it called into question. last month, Jones used a legally purchased AR-15 rifle to open fire at an Omaha Target store. No one was hit by Jones’ shooting, but police shot dead a 32-year-old man as shoppers panicked.

This episode presents gun control laws that fail to keep firearms out of the hands of seriously troubled people, despite efforts to pass them at the national level. red flag law in recent years.

Mental health experts say most people with mental illness aren’t violent and are much more likely to be victims of violent crime.Access to firearms is a big part of the problem I’m here.

“There’s no excuse for him to be allowed to buy a firearm,” said Larry Dirksen Jr., Jones’ uncle. “Something was bound to happen”

In August 2021, a deputy was called because Derksen didn’t want to give the gun back to his nephew who had just been released from a mental hospital. According to the Sarpy County Sheriff’s Office incident report, Mr. Dirksen said Mr. Jones was paranoid, had heard voices and had traveled to several states for fear that the cartel was following him. He said he was

However, Jones told his lieutenant that he was on medication, feeling fine, and had no plans to hurt anyone. It was drunk driving after being hit by another car on the way home.

“I had no reason to believe that Joseph could not own a firearm.”

Does not include Nebraska 19 states with red flag lawsAlso known as extreme risk protection orders, they are intended to limit the purchase of firearms or to temporarily remove firearms from people who could harm themselves or others.

Nebraska proposed a red flag law earlier this year, but it has yet to be heard by Congress.

Chris Brown, director of the Brady Center to Gun Violence, said, “This is an example of the kind of extreme risk protection order screaming.” It hurts my heart.”

Federal law has barred some mentally ill people from purchasing guns since 1968. This includes those who were seen as a danger to themselves or others, who were involuntarily violated, who were found not guilty because of insanity, or who were judged incompetent to stand trial. included.

But it sets what Jon Hamm, a spokesman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, described as “very high standards.” In order to submit someone’s name to the FBI for inclusion in the National Immediate Criminal Background Check System, they must undergo a hearing to be deemed incapable of conducting personal business due to mental illness.

The law describes him as having been “adjudicated as mentally ill.” While each state has a different process, the multiple her three-day involuntary commitments that Jones’ family and law enforcement records describe did not provoke such a hearing.

A few years ago, Jones’ family was so desperate that they considered taking action. Jones’ mother also has schizophrenia, is declining in function, and had to stay in a group home, so they are familiar with some of the court proceedings.

However, having managed to convince law enforcement to intervene and put Jones in a mental hospital, they decided not to pursue it.

In November 2021, the family reported that Jones threatened his grandmother with a handgun that his uncle had kept to commit suicide, according to a report by the Sarpy County Sheriff’s Office.

His grandmother, who hid in fear, told a representative her grandson would be “okay for a few days” but would “worse” when he resumed drinking and using the unregulated plant-based pain reliever Kratom. . and possibly other drugs.

Deputies handcuffed Jones and took him to the hospital for evaluation. According to Dirksen, the family thought hospitalization had the same effect as going through a formal hearing. There is no record that a doctor performed it.

Derksen then asked lawmakers to keep the handgun. Sarpy County Sheriff Jeff Davis said his department did not return the guns despite Jones’ repeated requests.

“Some say that taking up arms probably violated his Second Amendment rights, according to the text of the law. Davis said the circumstances surrounding the removal of guns are far more worrying than when agents returned firearms.

The problem only escalated. In June 2022, Jones’ grandmother reported him missing, and he said he stopped taking his schizophrenia medication a few months ago. His employer, a garage door company, said he was no longer coming to work.

Law enforcement found him lying on an interstate in the Emporia, Kansas area, hoping to be “run over by a cicada” by officers, according to the Sarpy County incident report.

According to Derksen, one of the first things Jones did after returning from Kansas was to go to Cabella’s store and buy a shotgun. got a gun Derksen’s influence was that Jones owned a duplex where he stayed with his grandmother.

Recently, Jones called the FBI to report some type of harassment, his uncle said. The agency said he could not discuss specific calls.

Police have not revealed why Jones entered the target with 13 magazines loaded and fired multiple rounds. Derksen believes his nephew did not want the mass shootings carried out and instead wanted the police to kill him. I had delusions that I would hurt my family.

Timeline He was released by police. Authorities ordered him to drop his gun over 20 times, after Jones said, “I’ll kill you!” he was shot once.

“I feel really sorry for those who were traumatized at the target and even the law enforcement officers who were forced to shoot,” Dirksen said. you can get there. ”


Hollingsworth reported from the Kansas Mission. Lindsay Whitehurst of Washington DC and Bernard Condon of New York contributed to this report.