By Idrees Ali
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Air Force said on Tuesday there were at least several dozen cases of serious crimes involving its personnel which it failed to report to a federal database used by licensed gun dealers to conduct background checks on firearms purchasers.
The issue of the military passing information on service members' criminal activity to law enforcement agencies was highlighted this month when the Air Force said it failed to provide data on a man who carried out Texas' deadliest mass shooting.
Former Airman Devin Kelley - who killed 26 people and wounded 20 others when he opened fire in the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, on Nov. 5 - was convicted five years ago by a general court-martial on two charges of domestic assault against his wife and stepson.
The Air Force said that information was not entered into the National Criminal Information Center database, which the Federal Bureau of Investigation oversees and uses to run required background check requests from gun dealers before a sale.
The Air Force is conducting a review of 60,000 cases going back to 2002 involving service members, to see how many have not been reported to law enforcement and what changes need to be made, a process that could take months to complete.
"The review also found the error in the Kelley case was not an isolated incident and similar reporting lapses occurred at other locations," Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said.
"Although policies and procedures requiring reporting were in place, training and compliance measures were lacking," Stefanek said.
The Air Force has corrected the several dozen cases that had not been reported, she added.
A San Antonio couple who lost their son and eight other family members in the Sutherland Springs Texas church shooting have filed a claim against the U.S. Air Force, blaming it for 'institutional failures', lawyers said on Tuesday.
The claim, which names Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson as respondent, was filed on behalf of Joe Holcombe, 86, and his wife Claryce Holcombe, 85.
U.S. officials believe the gaps in reporting service members' criminal activities were not limited to the Air Force, but an issue in the other services as well.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis has ordered the Defense Department inspector general to review the handling of Kelley’s information and a broader review into the procedures for the military sending information to law enforcement.
(Reporting by Idrees Ali; additional reporting by Jim Forsyth in San Antonio, Texas; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Andrew Hay)