How was Robert Crimo able to legally buy guns after he threatened to kill his family?

Questions are mounting around how the suspected gunman who murdered seven and wounded dozens more parade-goers at a July 4 celebration in Illinois was able to legally purchase a trove of firearms despite threatening to kill his own family.

Robert Crimo was approved for a state firearm permit – an FOID (Firearm Owner’s Identification) card – in January 2020, just four months after Highland Park police were called to his home because he said he was going to “kill everyone” inside with a “ collection of knives”.

Over the next two years, he then passed four federal background checks, enabling him to legally purchase five firearms including two high-powered rifles, two handguns and a shotgun.

On Monday, he then allegedly used one of those firearms – a high-powered Smith & Wesson M&P 15 rifle – to carry out a horrific mass shooting in Highland Park where families, friends and local residents had gathered to enjoy Independence Day celebrations.

So what went wrong?

Officials revealed on Tuesday that Highland Park Police had been called to Mr Crimo’s home for two incidents involving the suspect in 2019.

First, in April 2019, police were called to report that Mr Crimo had tried to kill himself around one week earlier.

Officers responded to the address and spoke to Mr Crimo and his parents, before referring the incident to mental health professionals.

Lake County Sheriff’s Office Sgt Christopher Covelli said in a press conference that “there was no law enforcement action to be taken” because it was a mental health issue being handled by those professionals.

Five months later – in September 2019 – police were then called to report from a family member that Mr Crimo had vowed to “kill everyone” inside the home with a “collection of knives”.

Officers responded to the scene and found 16 knives, a dagger and a sword.

The knives were confiscated but officers did not arrest the suspect because no complaint was made by the alleged victims.

When asked by officers if he felt like harming himself or others, Mr Crimo said no, according to the police report.

Robert Crimo appears in first court appearance on seven counts of first-degree murder


Mr Crimo’s father Bob Crimo then claimed the knives belonged to him and that they were just being stored in his son’s closet for safekeeping.

Following those claims, the police returned the knives to the home that afternoon.

Sgt Covelli said that Highland Park police notified the Illinois State Police – the agency responsible for approving or blocking Illinois residents from possessing guns – about the incident.

On Tuesday night, Illinois State Police said in a press release stating that it had received a clear and present danger report on Mr Crimo from the Highland Park Police Department in September 2019 over the “threats the subject made against his family”.

ISP said that no arrests were made “and no one, including family, was willing to move forward on a complaint nor did they subsequently provide information on threats or mental health that would have allowed law enforcement to take additional action”.

No Firearms Restraining Order or order of protection was filed either.

At that time, Mr Crimo did not have a firearms ID card to revoke or a pending application for a card.

ISP said that this meant their “involvement with the matter was concluded”.

But in December – just three months after family members reported their son for allegedly threatening to kill them – he applied for his first FOID card.

An American flag flies at half-staff near a memorial for the victims

(Getty Images)

Because he was under the age of 21 at the time, state law required him to have the consent of a parent or guardian.

His father sponsored the application – despite the threats his son had allegedly made to the lives of both his family members and himself just months earlier.

In the state of Indiana, residents must have a FOID to legally possess firearms or ammunition and the cards are issued by the Illinois State Police to qualified applicants.

Residents must meet a long list of criteria to get an ID card including that they have not been a patient in a mental institution or any part of a medical facility for the treatment of mental illness within the past five years, that they are not subject of. an existing Order of Protection or a No Contact/No Stalking Order, and that they are a convicted felon.

In January 2020, the Illinois State Police approved the FOID application.

ISP said in a media release that when it reviewed the application that January “there was insufficient basis to establish a clear and present danger and deny the FOID application”.

ISP said that the only offense on Mr Crimo’s rap sheet at the time was an ordinance violation for possession of tobacco from January 2016 when he was a minor.

There was also no record of any mental health prohibitor reports submitted by healthcare facilities or personnel, the state police said.

And so – despite the red flags in the two previous police encounters with the suspect – the state approved his application.

Surveillance image of what police believe to be is Robert Crimo dressed in women’s clothing


After he was granted approval to legally possess firearms and ammunition in the state of Illinois at the age of 19, Mr Crimo went on to pass four federal background checks while purchasing firearms.

These checks are done through the Firearms Transaction Inquiry Program (FTIP), which includes the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).

The suspect bought his first firearm on 9 June 2020, followed by two more purchases the following month – on 18 and 31 July 2020.

He then made another purchase on 20 September 2021.

A law enforcement official told TheDailyBeast that Mr Crimo bought four of the firearms – including the one used in the attack – through local gun dealer Red Dot Arms.

The high-powered rifle allegedly used in Monday’s massacre was legally purchased online from a retailer in Kentucky called and then picked up from the local gun dealer, the owner said.

Officials are now facing questions around whether warning signs were missed about the alleged shooter, after he also posted several disturbing videos glorifying violence, firearms and mass shootings online prior to the attack.

Law enforcement officials said that they were not aware of the online content prior to Monday’s attack.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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