U.S. Background Check System Can't Prevent the Next Sutherland Springs If the FBI Doesn't Have Up-to-date Info

Once the initial shock and horror of the church shooting massacre in Sutherland Springs subsided, it was natural to ask the question, "How did this happen?"It didn't take long for details to emerge about the shooter, Devin Kelley, that made it clear he was a disturbed and violent individual who should never have had access to a firearm.In 2012, while stationed at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, Kelley was charged with assault. According to Air Force reports, he repeatedly struck, kicked and choked his first wife six months into their marriage and hit his stepson's head so hard he managed to crack his skull. The Air Force said the blow was "a force likely to produce death or grievous bodily harm."A separate question about Kelley's seemingly light sentence — he was sentenced to one year when the maximum penalty was five years — demands an answer from the Air Force. But what's more critical is that Kelley's conviction should have prevented him from purchasing firearms — especially the Ruger AR-556 rifle he used to murder 26 innocent people and injure 22 more.Kelley didn't purchase the guns off the street. He didn't buy them from a private seller at a gun show, garage sale or via an internet ad. He bought his firearms at gun shops. He bought the Ruger at an Academy Sports & Outdoors store in San Antonio.Kelley apparently lied on federal form 4473 when he made his purchase. He checked "No" when asked, "Have you ever been convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence?" Under normal circumstances, the background check would have flagged Kelley and disallowed the sale to proceed regardless of how he answered the question. That is where the system broke down.Retired Col. Don Christensen, the chief prosecutor for the Air Force at the time of Kelley's plea, confirmed to The Dallas Morning News that the Air Force should have sent Kelley's conviction to the F.B.I. and that it did not. This is inexcusable.Outside of his Air Force assault conviction, witnesses say they saw Kelley abusing his dog, and new reports say Kelley escaped from a mental health facility in 2012 and threatened his Air Force superiors.Devin Kelley is the poster-boy for making sure the National Instant Criminal Background Check System functions as it is supposed to. There are clearly holes in the system if somebody like Kelley is allowed to purchase a firearm. Congress should start plugging those holes by strengthening the requirements of the background check law and imposing stiffer penalties for organizations that fail to send updated information to the FBI. We're pleased to see Texas Sen. John Cornyn introduce legislation on Tuesday headed in this direction.The law mandates use of the background check system for a reason. But like any database, if the information is not up to date, then it doesn't serve a useful purpose.As we learned this week, such failure can be deadly.What's your view?Got an opinion about this issue? Send a letter to the editor, and you just might get published.  Continue reading...

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