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Another mass shooting rocks the country, this time closer to home

This past week Texas experienced devastation after a gunman opened fire on churchgoers this past Sunday. The gunman, Devin Patrick Kelly, killed 26 people and then led police on a chase culminating in his death from what authorities believe may have been a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The events of November 5, 2017 occurred about a month after the mass shooting in Las Vegas, which was the country's deadliest. The Las Vegas shooting occurred when a gunman opened fire on an outdoor concert from his hotel room above. The incident in Sutherland Springs was the deadliest in the history of Texas.

The fallout from this event will continue for the months and years to come. Shortly after the shooting, it was revealed that Devin Patrick Kelly had a past domestic assault when he was in the Air Force. The Air Force convicted Kelly of domestic assault after he beat his wife and stepson. He entered into a plea deal and agreed to one year of confinement and was discharged for bad conduct.

So how did Devin Patrick Kelly legally obtain a gun?

In 1996, Congress passed legislation which made it illegal for anyone convicted of domestic abuse to purchase a gun. A conviction for domestic assault clearly made Kelly ineligible to purchase a firearm, but the information from his Air Force conviction had not been entered into the National Criminal Information Center.

Some experts have found a link between past domestic abuse incidents in the background of mass shooters. The fact that this information is not reported to the national database consistently and comprehensively, means there are others that have very likely slipped through this federal requirement.

Part of the explanation for the lack of reporting to the National Criminal Information Center may be that military justice and punishment doesn't always translate well to the civilian criminal justice sphere. Whatever the explanation for the breach in protocol, it is clear that the policies and procedures in place need to be reevaluated.

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  • Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association
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