Devin Kelley should not have been able to buy or possess the guns he used in the Sutherland Springs, Texas homicidal massacre. That’s not an opinion; it’s a statement of fact based on Kelley’s history and the country’s existing gun laws.
As media outlets have reported, Kelley was court-martialed in 2012 after admitting he beat up his wife and young stepson. The New York Times reports, “Federal law lists 11 criteria that would bar someone from buying a gun, including two that would seem to apply to Mr. Kelley: conviction of a crime punishable by more than a year in prison—assaulting his stepson, which carried a maximum sentence of five years—and conviction of domestic violence misdemeanor.”
Kelley was in the Air Force at the time and the Air Force should have reported his conviction to the National Criminal Information System (NCIS), but it didn’t. Had the data been in the system it would have turned up during the background check when Kelley tried to buy guns and he would have been denied.
The Air Force has promised an investigation.
Additionally, it is now being reported that Kelley once fled a mental hospital. WFAA-TV reports that Kelley, “escaped from a mental institution in New Mexico, threatened his Air Force chain of command while facing military charges of domestic violence” and tried to sneak weapons onto a military base.
A police report obtained by the TV station said Kelley “suffered from mental disorders… (and) was a danger to himself and others.” The police report said he had also made death threats to his commanding officers.
The domestic violence conviction, a bad conduct discharge from the military, a commitment to, and escape from, a mental hospital, death threats—those aren’t just red flags, they are rock solid criteria for being blocked from legally purchasing a gun.
Read the Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms list of categories of persons prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition and Kelley might qualify under a half-dozen of them.
Whether the country needs more gun laws is always a matter of intense debate. (Eliminating the loophole in the existing law that allows for bump stocks like the Las Vegas shooter had should be simple enough, but it’s not.) However, the horrific massacre in Sutherland Springs and the circumstances surrounding the killer should set off alarms for how we are failing to properly enforce the laws we have.