On Sunday, Devin Kelley, 26, opened fire on First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, killing 26 and wounding 20. He was confronted and engaged by National Rifle Association member and former instructor Stephen Willeford, who was able to wound Kelley who sped off; Kelley later crash his vehicle in neighboring Guadalupe County and died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. It’s a horrific incident. The ages of the victims ranged from 18 months to 77 years of age. It’s a shattering event that rocked this community that rests outside of San Antonio. While the narrative against the NRA is dead since a member stopped the carnage from being more severe, let’s go to where both the gun control and gun rights groups can find common ground: convicted domestic abusers should not be able to own firearms. This is a relatively uncontroversial position, but Kelley was able to buy four weapons in 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017; two were purchased in Colorado, while the other two were bought in Texas at Academy Sports & Outdoors.
When the federal government failed to do its job, it was an NRA instructor who stepped in to stop the carnage.— Sean Davis (@seanmdav) November 7, 2017
Kelley was convicted of domestic abuse while in the Air Force. He was court martialed in 2012 for strangling his wife and cracking the skull of his stepson. He was sentenced to a year in jail. In 2014, he was given a “bad-conduct” discharge. The discharge classification is not dishonorable, but his criminal record has already made him a prohibited person, so how did he get the weapons? The Air Force forgot to send his criminal record to the FBI. This shooting could very well have been prevented. And this appears to not be an isolated incident. For the first time, Trace, an Everytown, Bloomberg-funded journalism venture, found that the military is not forwarding domestic abuse convictions to the FBI [emphasis mine]:
While enlisted in the Air Force, Kelley was convicted by a court martial of charges stemming from an assault on his then-wife and young child in 2012 and sentenced to a year in confinement. The offense was the equivalent of the civilian crime of misdemeanor domestic assault — one of the 12 categories of records that automatically bar someone from legal gun possession.
But the military has no distinct charge for domestic violence, notes Grover Baxley, a former judge advocate general who now practices military law as a civilian. “We see this all the time,” Baxley said. “There is no specific domestic violence article.” Instead, military prosecutors charge abusers with other offenses, like assault.
A scan of active records shows that the Department of Defense has just a single misdemeanor conviction for domestic violence on file with the National Criminal Instant Background Check System, or NICS.
If we can’t agree to fix this, then we’re nuts. The military isn’t reporting domestic violence convictions to the FBI? pic.twitter.com/72KOUqFNzE— David French (@DavidAFrench) November 7, 2017
Just got details of Devin Kelley's DV charges. He was accused of strangling his wife, pointing loaded gun at her, and hitting child.— Melissa Jeltsen (@quasimado) November 6, 2017
Granted, Trace admits that some cases might be removed from NICS due to successful appeals, but that’s not the reason why there are so few in NICS. They cited Alaska that has over 1,300 temporary protective orders on file; New Hampshire has over 14,000. The Air Force or the FBI did not get back to Trace for further comment, but this is a no-brainer. If you’re convicted of beating your spouse or girlfriend, and in this case—your children—you should lose your gun rights. Blessedly, this has been law for years, which some anti-gunners seem to have not known. The only problem is that the anti-gun Left has become very comfortable to label Second Amendment supporters and gun owners as terrorists. As we’ve mentioned before, the table is always there for an actual debate on gun policy in America. It’s just that the other side needs to do their homework. For Trace, this is a good piece, and kudos for adding that a ‘bad conduct’ discharge does not add someone on the prohibited list, whereas a dishonorable discharge would. Regardless, Kelley shouldn’t have been able to own weapons due to his domestic violence conviction. This was a bad foul-up.