Critics Say Military Doesn’t Report to Gun-Check Database

After Texas church killer got guns despite court-martial conviction, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) says the number of records reported to the FBI “is staggeringly low. That is unacceptable and it must change.”

Critics of the national database designed to vet gun buyers charge that the U.S. military routinely neglects to populate it with court-martial records, as required by law, the Wall Street Journal reports. The Air Force admitted it had failed to submit the records of Devin Kelley, who killed 26 people in a Texas church on Sunday, to the FBI after a 2012 court-martial conviction for domestic assault. The lapse seems to explain why Kelley passed background checks and was allowed to buy guns. The Senate’s No. 2 Republican, Sen. John Cornyn (TX) said he is working on legislation to get more federal agencies, to upload criminal-conviction records into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Those records are required, but can slip through the cracks. “According to the Department of Justice, the number of these records that are actually uploaded is staggeringly low,” Cornyn said. “That is unacceptable and it must change.”

Experts said large gaps in information sharing between the military and the Justice Department has led to a blind spot in background checks of veterans, allowing those barred from possessing weapons to get cleared. They say the failure with Kelley’s record likely is a systemic flaw rather than a one-time miss. “This comes as no surprise to any of us familiar with the way NICS works,” said Robert Belair, a Washington lawyer. Belair said the Air Force and other military branches seldom submit court-martial records to the FBI’s database when the offense doesn’t lead to a dishonorable discharge. “It’s just never been a priority for the military,” he said. Federally licensed firearm dealers are required to check credentials of every potential buyer against the NICS system containing millions of criminal history records and protection orders.