Actually, there are several loopholes that allowed Devin Kelley to acquire firearms and commit mass-murder; if any one of them were closed, he may have been tripped up. The first deals with assault.
The answer may lie in differences between how civilian courts and the U.S. military, in which Kelley had previously served, treat domestic violence, and how each submits abusers’ records for gun background checks.
While enlisted in the Air Force, Kelley was convicted by a court martial of charges stemming from an assault on his then-wife and young child in 2012 and sentenced to a year in confinement. The offense was the equivalent of the civilian crime of misdemeanor domestic assault — one of the 12 categories of records that automatically bar someone from legal gun possession.
But the military has no distinct charge for domestic violence, notes Grover Baxley, a former judge advocate general who now practices military law as a civilian. “We see this all the time,” Baxley said. “There is no specific domestic violence article.” Instead, military prosecutors charge abusers with other offenses, like assault.
In addition, the military has “currently submitted zero records for members subject to domestic violence restraining orders, the other category of domestic abuse that gets a civilian barred from buying guns from licensed dealers.” What’s with that?
Finally, you won’t pass a background check if you’ve been dishonorably discharged, but a bad conduct discharge like Kelley’s? He passes. It’s time to change the law, the UCMJ or both to address these deficiencies and ensure that a guy who beats his wife and cracks the skull of his infant son can’t buy a gun. In this, Trump is once again talking out of his a$$.
Update: Here’s another thing that should turn up in a background check: Whether or not the person was sent by authorities to a mental health facility.
The gunman in the worst mass killing in Texas history escaped from a mental health institution in New Mexico, threatened his Air Force chain of command while facing military charges of domestic violence, and “had already been caught sneaking firearms onto” an air base, according to a 2012 El Paso Police Department report obtained by WFAA.
El Paso police arrested Devin Kelley on June 7, 2012, at a Greyhound bus station a stone’s throw from the U.S.-Mexico border after he escaped the Peak Behavioral Health Services facility about 12 miles away in Santa Teresa, New Mexico, according to the police report.
At the time, Kelley was facing a court martial on charges that he beat his wife and her son at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico about 100 miles north of El Paso. It’s unclear when Kelley was confined to the mental health facility, which is near Sunland Park, New Mexico.
Sunland Park police officers, who were looking for Kelley after his escape, told El Paso police officers that Kelley “suffered from mental disorders and had plans to run” from the mental hospital and “take a bus out of state,” according to the El Paso police report.
Good grief. Statistically speaking, over half of the mass shootings since 1982 involved a person with prior signs of mental health issues. There’s more here from the DDIN. In addition, authorities have not yet been able to crack into Kelley’s cellphone to access text messages, etc., which merits another good grief.