Gun used in New Hope shooting traced to Duluth PD

Murder weapons can often be traced back to an illegal source. In the case of the shooting and New Hope City Hall, the gun used by shooter Raymond Kmetz, which had a scratched-off serial number, was traced back to the Duluth Police Department.

The gun was legally sold by the department to an auction house. Kmetz was allegedly able to buy three guns and have someone else pick them up for him, a practice called "straw buying."

Gun laws are as complex as they are polarizing, but the question remains: How does a man, prohibited by law from owning a gun, come to own three shotguns?

Gun shop owner John Monson says the system works more often than not, but there are always ways to cheat it. According to investigators, Kmetz was able to purchase three shotguns from online auction house in July. Weeks later, the guns were allegedly picked up by 42-year-old Michael Garant at a gun shop in Princeton, Minn.

"The gun comes on a dealer transfer to us and it has someone's name on it , only that person can pick up that firearm and only that person can do the paperwork, and those kinds of things to get that," Monson said.

In fact, if you look at a firearms transaction form, you'll find line 11.a, which reads, in part, "If you are not the actual buyer, the dealer cannot transfer the items to you."

For most gun shops like Bill's Gun Shop and Range, that line would have stopped the sale.

"The process of purchasing online and the other guy picking it up, that's not illegal," Monson said.

Gun law often comes down to interpretation, and that's one reason why alleged straw buyer Garant was not charged with a crime. According to the Hennepin County attorney, there simply wasn't enough evidence.

The Hennepin County Sheriff's Office, Minneapolis and St. Paul police departments all destroy unwanted guns, but it's not uncommon for a police department to sell seized guns.

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