A former Cornell University student has been charged with four federal crimes after an abundance of weapons was allegedly found in his Ithaca, N.Y., apartment.
Two of the charges have to do with possession of firearms — an unregistered destructive device and a silencer. The others have to do with false statements in connection with the acquisition of a firearm and the required record of a federal firearms license in connection with a firearm purchase.
An affidavit filed on March 15 states that on March 7, an employee at a Walmart in Ithaca contacted the Ithaca Police Department about some suspicious purchases made at the store. Police were able to determine that Maximilien R. Reynolds, 20, purchased firearms ammunition, camping gear, drill bits, hacksaw blades, knives and more items from Walmart using a gift card.
According to the affidavit, Reynolds was on temporary leave of absence from Cornell University and was taking classes at Tompkins Cortland Community College in Dryden, N.Y.
When local FBI agents and Ithaca police visited Reynolds' apartment, the affidavit says, Reynolds' girlfriend told the agents she was worried about him. According to the document, she said he seemed to be manic, was getting little sleep and wasn't taking his medications. At that time, the objects observed in the apartment included a bullet-resistant vest, multiple camouflage-style clothing items and what appeared to be a military-style gas mask.
The affidavit states that about one hour later, FBI agents met Reynolds at his apartment and got his consent to search the place. The search revealed a cache of weapons that included a Savage MSR-15 Patrol rifle, a homemade silencer, containers of chemicals commonly used to create homemade explosives and over 300 rounds of firearm ammunition.
According to the document, the following day, an individual told police that in the fall of 2017, Reynolds gave him $1,000 in cash to buy a firearm, along with an additional $200 as payment for going through with the purchase. The individual said Reynolds told him that he was not allowed to buy the firearm himself, so the individual bought the Savage MSR-15 Patrol rifle from a federally licensed firearm dealer in Tomkins County under his own name.
The affidavit also states that Reynolds was detained in June 2016 under a section of the New York State Mental Hygiene Law that allows police to take custody of "any person who appears to be mentally ill and is conducting himself or herself in a manner which is likely to result in serious harm to the person or others" and transport them to a hospital.
In a communication to the Ithaca campus community Friday, Vice President for University Relations Joel M. Malina wrote that law enforcement does not believe there is currently a threat to Cornell's campus. "This is a good reminder that we can all help to keep our community safe by immediately reporting suspicious activity."
NPR's Nathan Rott reported in March 2017 that silencers are "one of the most heavily regulated products in the gun industry." Gun rights advocates, along with the silencer industry, have argued that such regulation is unfair. In October, after a gunman fired at concertgoers in Las Vegas, killing 59 people and injuring hundreds, House Republicans postponed voting on a bill that would make it easier to purchase a silencer.
After a gunman who had once escaped from a mental health facility killed more than two dozen people at a church in Texas in November 2017, NPR's Alison Kodjak reported in a conversation with All Things Considered host Kelly McEvers that the connection between gun violence and mental health is not necessarily direct:
"An issue brief from the Bazelon Center, written back in 2013 after the Newtown, Conn., massacre, says it's unfair to tie the two. 'We know how to enable individuals with significant psychiatric disabilities to succeed,' the paper says. It says services such as supported employment and housing, are very effective at keeping people with mental illness out of emergency rooms, psychiatric hospitals and jails.
" 'Affording people with serious mental illnesses the services they need is a critical goal, but it is not a solution to gun violence,' the report says.
"That's not to say that people who commit mass shooting never suffer from mental health issues, Kodjak points out, in Texas and in other shootings.
"But research shows that people who suffer from mental health issues such as bipolar disorder or anxiety are no more likely than the average person to become violent. And people with mental illness are ten times more likely to be victims of violent crime, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services."