It’s no secret that there aren’t many nationwide restrictions to owning a gun, at least in the United States. Sutherland Springs church shooter Devin Kelley, however, qualified for two of those restrictions. While he should have never been able to purchase a gun, he did so more than once, according to authorities who found numerous weapons in Kelley’s vehicle after the shooting.
Now, the Air Force has come forward to acknowledge a “misstep” that meant that Kelley’s name and criminal convictions were never entered into the National Criminal Information Center, an FBI information system that allows law enforcement officials to access crime data shared across agencies.
This meant that Kelley essentially had a clean record, even though he’d been dishonorably discharged and plead guilty to several domestic abuse charges. Because his charges were never entered into the NCIC, they essentially didn’t exist.
The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 amended that Federal Gun Control Act of 1968 to effect a total of nine conditions that make someone ineligible to own a gun, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. They’re serious offenses like felony charges, known substance abuse, a dishonorable discharge from any branch of the armed services, a misdemeanor (or higher) domestic violence conviction and others.
Devin Kelley is now known to qualify as a “prohibited person” — i.e., barred from ever legally owning a gun — on two of those conditions. He received a dishonorable discharge stemming from domestic abuse charges that he plead guilty to in 2012, according to Military.com.
Kelley’s dishonorable discharge from the Air Force was executed in 2014. He was initially charged with five domestic abuse charges; under a plea deal created between his lawyer and Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tuscon, AZ, he would plead guilty to just two of them.
Kelley plead guilty to one incident of domestic abuse in which he “struck his wife by beating her with his hands, kicking her, as well as choking her and forcefully pulling her hair” and another incident, a beating of a child under 16 in which he hit the child “on the head and body with a force likely to produce death or grievous bodily harm,” according to court documents reviewed by Military.com. These incidents occurred between 2011 and 2012.
Three additional charges were withdrawn and dismissed. They alleged another domestic incident in which Kelley struck a child, as well as multiple 2012 incidents that saw Kelley assault and threaten his wife by pointing firearms at her both loaded and unloaded.
As for Kelley and owning a firearm, that should have been it. A convicted domestic abuser with a dishonorable discharge, he would have failed any background test run on him for the purpose of acquiring a permit or purchasing a weapon.
But his convictions never came up on background checks; they were never entered, according to the Air Force, who has pledged a “complete review of the Kelley case by the Air Force Office of the Inspector General” in a statement released today.