A damning review (of their own procedures) by The Air Force has confirmed their failings in reporting “several dozen” members of the service guilty of violent offending to The National gun background check database. More alarming is that the Air Force advised The New York Times that the reporting failure in respect of Sutherland Springs wasn’t an “isolated incident”. The failings in reporting to The National gun background check database allowed the disgraced airman (Devin Patrick Kelly) to carry out his murderous spree on November 5th. 

In the fallout following the mass killing it was determined by the Department of Defense that the shooter’s court martial for beating his infant child and wife should have barred him from firearms purchase.

However the conviction for the violent assaults and subsequent court martial were not reported to NICSThis database is relied upon by State outlets and private dealers when running a national gun background check on individuals. Since 2002 the Air Force confirm around 60,000 instances that involved airmen warranted reporting and inclusion in the NICS. However, for whatever reason, these 60,000 incidents were overlooked.

Asides from Holloman Air Force Base where Devin Kelly was based (New Mexico), other bases have seen such similar lapses in reporting.  The Air Force though qualify the lapses by confirming while procedures and policies were in place compliance and training were lacking. Federal law states any individual dishonorably discharged from any of the armed forces is automatically prohibited from receiving or possessing ammunition or firearms travelling over state lines. The Lautenberg amendment in 1996 extended the prohibition to all military personnel convicted of domestic violence.

The major lapses in reporting by The Air Force to law enforcement databases isn’t confined to Kelly slipping through the net. Non reporting has gone unchecked for some 20 years. A Department of Defense report in 1997 uncovered the failure in reporting 38% of finger print cards and 50% of criminal case decisions to the FBI. This period took in 6 months from late 1995 through to early 1996. In 2015 a follow up report uncovered failures to report 39% of finger print data between 2010 and 2012. The blame or cause attributed to the failings is “ambiguous Pentagon guidelines” and a prevalent military disinterest in forwarding information to the FBI more often than not viewed as “chronically overburdened with data,” also confirmed by the Air Force themselves in their statement of  28th November.

In the wake of the Sutherland Springs massacre and subsequent personal history coming to light the Pentagon has been feverishly overhauling it’s national gun background check and reporting procedures. Among the raft of measures is confirmation from Air Force Investigation Personnel that they have witnessed either a screenshot or a printout of the reportable offense.

The review has been directed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The review is a 5 point plan  has directed the ATF and FBI to resolve and identify reporting issues in respect of prohibited persons status under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g).  Establish other military bodies capacity and process to report to NICS. Any military members with flawed reporting should develop accurate and full reporting going forward to comply with current law. Conduct a review of the structure, format and wording of ATF form 4473 and make recommendations as necessary. Report on current open investigations for declaring false information (ATF 4473). The number of investigations over the past five years. Identify additional measures to prevent prohibited persons from obtaining firearms. The full 5 points can be found by following this link.

Members of Congress have introduced at least two bills in the wake of the massacre to ensure that the military submits domestic violence convictions to the national gun background check. Please follow this link to read more about the bill proposed by senators Jeff Flake and Martin Heinrich. Please follow this link to read more about the proposed bill by senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and John Cornyn (R-Tex.) which highlights reporting frequency by federal agencies and states that legally prohibits an individual from purchasing a firearm.

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