Gun used in suicide of Rick Warren's son was sold illegally: police

LOS ANGELES Fri Apr 12, 2013 2:56pm EDT

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The gun that the 27-year-old son of popular evangelical pastor Rick Warren used to kill himself was sold to him illegally, with its serial number removed, California authorities said on Friday.

Orange County Sheriff's detectives were investigating Matthew Warren's purchase of the firearm, which was recovered at the scene, and could seek charges against the seller, sheriff's spokesman Jim Amormino said.

"We do have a gun that we are investigating but we still have some investigation to do," Amormino said.

"The gun does have the serial numbers scratched off," he said. "We're going to try to determine who the previous owner is, but because of the condition of the weapon, with its serial numbers missing, that may be difficult."

Matthew Warren was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at his home in Mission Viejo, California, last week after what his parents have described as a lifelong struggle with depression and mental illness.

Rick Warren, pastor of the Orange County-based Saddleback Valley Community Church and author of the best-selling book "The Purpose-Driven Life," has said that his son purchased the weapon online.

"Someone on the Internet sold Matthew an unregistered gun. I Pray he seeks God's forgiveness. I forgive him," Rick Warren tweeted on Thursday afternoon. He made a similar post on his Facebook page.

In a separate tweet, he added: "If you forgive men when they sin against you, your Heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you don't ..."

Amormino said he could not confirm that the gun had been purchased on the Internet, citing the ongoing investigation. He also declined to describe the weapon. But he said the transaction was clearly illegal.

"In no case is it legal to possess or sell a weapon with a serial number that has been scratched out," he said, adding that other laws may have been violated as well.

The high-profile suicide of Warren's son with an unregistered firearm comes as members of Congress debate President Barack Obama's package of gun-control proposals, prompted by the massacre of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, four months ago.

Rick Warren delivered an invocation at Obama's first inauguration in January 2009.

Saddleback, one of the largest evangelical churches in the United States, is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. About 20,000 people attend weekly services at the main campus in Lake Forest and seven other churches throughout Southern California.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Steve Orlofsky)

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Comments (14)
awenger wrote:
So,I wonder how they know the gun was purchased over the internet…especially if, as is as stated, they possibly can’t tell who the previous owner was because of the lack of a serial number. So then how do they know how Matthew purchased it? If they know from his computer, especially if from a regualr internet sales site, then they can find who the seller was. Furthermore, all interstate Internet sales require by law an FFL to facilitate the transfer…And, I’m not completely familiar with CA law, but there law is much more restrictive than most. Common mail/package transport will not allow someone to send a package with a gun unless it’s going to an FFL and many FFL’s, to avoid any possible problem, refuse to accept a gun from someone who isn’t themselves an FFL. The only easy way to do this would be to find a gun on an internet and meet someone face-to-face and I think even then it’s unlikely the gun was found on common internet sales sites. This is hardly different than acquiring the gun off the street illegally. Or perhaps the gun was legally purchased and Matt himself scratched off the number? Something doesn’t add up. At minimum, Mr. Whitcomb either has his facts wrong or isn’t telling us everything either because it doen’t fit the narrative he wishes to present or because he wasn’t told everything.

Apr 12, 2013 4:23pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
TZAZ wrote:
This was an illegal sale from the start no background check was ever going to performed, so how does the S649 figure in? The serial number missing is itself a very serious Federal crime, do you think the seller would care about enhanced background checks. If this transaction shows us anything it is that the proposed laws will not stop the lawless. Vote nay on S649

Apr 12, 2013 4:40pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
NickLGale wrote:
I am unable to see the relevance. Would this be a more appealing suicide if done with a legal gun?

Apr 12, 2013 4:45pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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