Devin Kelley, the Texas church shooter, shouldn’t have been allowed to buy guns because of his military domestic violence conviction, but the Air Force failed to report it to an FBI database.
The Air Force failed to alert federal law enforcement about Devin Kelley’s violent past, enabling the former service member, who killed 26 churchgoers Sunday in Sutherland Springs, Tx., to obtain firearms, reports the Washington Post. Kelley should have been barred from purchasing firearms and body armor because of his domestic violence conviction in 2014 Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico. Kelley was sentenced to a year in prison and expelled from the military with a bad conduct discharge after two counts of domestic abuse against his wife and a child. “Initial information indicates that Kelley’s domestic violence offense was not entered into the National Criminal Information Center database,” said Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein have directed an investigation of Kelley’s case and “relevant policies and procedures,” she said.
Firearms retailer Academy Sports confirmed that Kelley purchased two weapons after passing federal background checks this year and last. It is unclear whether those were the same weapons used in Sunday’s massacre, but his ability to purchase any guns highlights the Air Force’s failure to follow Pentagon guidelines for ensuring certain violent offenses are reported to the FBI. While military law does not classify crimes as felonies or misdemeanors, Kelley’s sentence was a functional felony conviction, said Geoffrey Corn, a former Army lawyer now at the South Texas College of Law in Houston. A separate law prohibits violent offenders from purchasing body armor, which Kelley was seen wearing during the rampage. Corn said it appears there is confusion within the Air Force, and other military branches, about only reporting violent crimes that result in dishonorable discharges, which are more severe punishments under military law than the bad conduct discharge Kelley received.