Gun Store Owner Refuses to Sell Weapon to Man Suspected of Planning Mass Shooting at University

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ATHENS, Ohio -- A gun store owner is being credited with possibly stopping a mass shooting at Ohio University after he refused to sell a gun to a man who passed a background check, CNN reported on Sunday.

James Howard passed a background check when attempting to buy a long gun last Monday, but sounded as if he might be planning to hurt himself or others, John Downs, owner of Downs Bait and Guns, told local TV station WSYX.

"I just said, you know what, bud, I have a really bad feeling about this. I just can't sell you the gun," Downs said.

The former Ohio University student and hockey player left the store angry, and later returned, according to Downs.

The store owner then turned off the shop’s “open” sign, told his customers to hide, loaded three guns, and called 911, he said.

Howard was later arrested at a nearby Walmart while buying survival gear, CNN reports.

"From what I know of the circumstances, I believe he did prevent a mass shooting that was probably going to occur at (Ohio University) in Athens,” said Hocking County Sheriff's Office Sheriff Lanny North. “He had an enormous amount of ammunition he was going to purchase, shotgun shells and 22-caliber rifle ammunition.”

Ohio University police were preparing to send out a campus alert when Howard was apprehended, CNN reports.

Howard was being held on burglary and weapons charges, and in lieu of $100,000 bail.


  • magicmikexxsm

    This is an older story read this last week or so….way to keep up on the latest news…lol….
    how about WNEP TV 16 do a hard hitting piece on how the state police are getting around 500 million from our gas tax road and bridges budget. how about you look into that..

  • J Hoffa

    Whether anyone agrees with it or not the owner of the store used his judgement which is his right. If people come into a gun shop (or business which sells guns) and exhibit potentially dangerous behavior to themselves or others, the store owner should refuse the sale. Often times it is very hard discern “crazy,” and can’t be detected in a background check so it does come to the person behind the counter. Right or wrong, depending on whomevers view point, I feel he did the right thing and did all of us who carry a weapon justice.

  • mik

    so basically he was arrested on someone’s hunch but not for actually committing a crime ammo are not weapons and burglary he had to break and enter a domain that wasn’t his or welcomed and stole somthing this is ridiculous

    • Ravenlocke

      A gun shop owner can refuse to sell you a weapon if you seem as though you are not of sound mind. It is at their discretion, secondly while he will not be charged with crimes involving an attempted attack on a school he will indeed have a mental evaluation done and if he is not found of sound mind he will never own a firearm again. This coming from myself being a PA Lawyer.

      • J Hoffa

        I wish more people with the knowledge, like you, would speak up more often. I might not always agree with people and their viewpoints, but it helps when someone can present more than just their conjecture.

      • Warren Searfoss

        you mean he will never legally own a firearm….he can most likely get one somewhere but not legally…. that is all the anti gun laws do… legal owners need permission to own… illegal owners don’t care

    • wth

      Oh we get it, you’re one of those anarchistic a-holes who thinks they can tell everyone ELSE what to do! Worry about what you’re supposed to do!

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