Air Force Finds They Didn't Report Dozens of Convictions to Firearms Background Check System

Contrary to popular belief, gun owners, enthusiasts, collectors and yes, members of the NRA believe a criminal background check is a valid method of making it more difficult for somebody with a criminal record to obtain a firearm.

The background check, however, is only as good as the information that is in the NICS (National Instant Criminal Background Check System) database. Unfortunately, the Air Force has been letting some of the convictions that should be reported to the database, slip through the cracks. After Devin Kelley shot and killed 26 people at a church in Texas, news broke that he passed a background check despite having a conviction for domestic violence.

Kelley’s conviction stemmed from an incident of him beating his wife and stepson while in the Air Force. They never sent the information to the F.B.I. to update the database. It turns out, that’s not the only one:

A review by the United States Air Force has found several dozen cases where the military failed to report service members convicted of serious crimes to the federal gun background-check databases, Air Force officials said on Tuesday.

“The error in the Kelley case was not an isolated incident and similar reporting lapses occurred at other locations,” the Air Force said in a statement. “Although policies and procedures requiring reporting were in place, training and compliance measures were lacking.”

There have been about 60,000 incidents in the Air Force since 2002 involving service members that potentially should have been reported to the federal background-check database. All of those incidents are now being reviewed by Air Force officials. Air Force officials were unable to say on Tuesday how many of those 60,000 cases have gone through the review process so far.

Again, the system is only as good as the data. There’s no excuse for any agency or state not to send this information along. If legislation can exist (on its own – forget “comprehensive”) that provides for penalties for not providing the data in a timely matter, shouldn’t Congress look into doing that?