Devin P. Kelley’s domestic abuse conviction went unnoticed when he purchased four military-style weapons because it was never plugged into the federal database. The human error made by the Air Force has drawn concerns about loopholes and oversights when it comes purchasing guns.
The New York Times reports the Air Force confessed to the blunder on Monday (Nov. 6) after the gunman’s relationship with his in-laws came to light. Kelley was discharged from the Air Force in 2014 after serving in New Mexico from 2010. During that time, he was court-martialed for assault on his wife and using his hands to crack his stepson’s skull. The conviction was never put on Kelly’s record.
The same year, Kelly purchased one of the four weapons used in the Houston church shooting that resulted in the deaths of 26 people. Two of the other guns purchased during that time were found in his car.
“Initial information indicates that Kelley’s domestic violence offense was not entered into the National Criminal Information Center database by the Holloman Air Force Base Office of Special Investigations,” an Air Force statement said. “The Air Force has launched a review of how the service handled the criminal records of former Airman Devin P. Kelley following his 2012 domestic violence conviction.”
“Somebody … really dropped the ball in this case and there’s 26 dead people now,” Don Christensen, the former Air Force chief prosecutor when Kelley was sentenced told CNN Monday.
The Air Force also plans to pull back the curtain to inquire if other convictions were left unreported. Kelly was rejected from obtaining a license to carry a handgun in Texas, but licenses aren’t required to buy a firearm in a gun shop. If an individual passes the background check, they can still buy a gun.
The Associated Press adds the Lautenberg Amendment was installed by Congress in 1996 to prevent those guilty of domestic violence from buying firearm. Other criteria include felonies punishable up to five years, an active drug-related record, a visa or green card holder and renounced citizenship. Despite these reasons, people like Dylann Roof were still able to purchase firearms.
“This is exactly the guy the Lautenberg Amendment is supposed to prevent from possessing a firearm,” Rachel Van Landingham, a professor at Southwestern Law School told AP. “Of course, the law only works if folks are abiding by the law.”