Jeff Lepp, owner of Specialty Sports Supply in Colorado who sold Texas church shooter Devin Kelley two firearms, is speaking out for the first time since Sunday’s tragedy after it was revealed that the assailant never should have been able to legally purchase any guns.
“I could not imagine something worse happening to myself or anybody I know,” he said, adding that Kelley passed a background check on both occasions he purchased a firearm from the shop. “You never want to sell something to somebody who’s gonna commit any form of a crime, let alone a mass murder like this.”
While the gun used in the Sutherland Springs Church shooting was not either of the two Lepp sold Kelley, he still never should have been able to buy them. On Monday, law enforcement officials confirmed that the United States Air Force failed to report Kelley’s domestic assault convictions following his 2012 court martial in which he pleaded guilty to striking, choking, kicking and pulling the hair of his then wife on two separate occasions. His plea deal allowed for five other counts of domestic violence, including pointing a loaded gun at his wife, to be dropped.
The convictions should have barred Kelley from purchasing the rifle he used in his massacre that left 26 dead. However, he had purchased four firearms since 2014, including the rifle, which he bought in 2016 in San Antonio. Lepp relied on the national database, in which the Air Force is required to enter the names of domestic abusers, to screen customers and has been wondering how the system failed ever since the shooting.
“Until we have an approval, we cannot and we will not transfer a firearm to a person,” he said, adding that Kelley would not have passed a background check in Colorado if his convictions had been entered. “There needs to be a way to solve the issue of whatever it was that caused this to disappear.”
“What he was convicted of should have stopped him from getting a gun,” said Col. Don Christensen (Ret.), who was formerly the Air Force’s top prosecutor. “He should not have had a gun because one, the maximum punishment was more than a year, and two, it involved domestic violence.”