As the investigation continues into the deadly shooting at a Sutherland Springs church, questions are swirling about how the gunman, Devin Kelley, was able to legally purchase multiple firearms.
In a statement Monday afternoon, the Air Force said Kelly was convicted by a general court-martial on two charges of domestic assault against his wife and step-son. Furthermore, they acknowledged that “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.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Kelley failed the state’s concealed carry background check.
“It's my understanding that he applied for a legal permit to carry a gun in the state of Texas, and was denied that permit. And that it was after that, he was able to obtain this gun,” explained Abbott.
In a statement, Academy Sports + Outdoors acknowledged Kelley purchased firearms from their store.
“Academy Sports + Outdoors sends our deepest condolences to the families of the victims and the entire Sutherland Springs community. Based on information we received from law enforcement, we confirmed that the suspect purchased two firearms from two San Antonio locations, one in 2016 and one in 2017. We also confirmed that both sales were approved by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). We are cooperating with law enforcement as they investigate further.”
Retired Lt. Col. Gary Barthel, who served 20 years in the Marine Corps, explained the conviction should have prevented Kelley’s ability to legally purchase a gun.
“I would definitely think so - if it was reported, and it was reported to the appropriate agencies, it should have been flagged,” said Barthel.
Barthel founded the Military Law Center and served as a USMC military attorney, as well as a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office. He explained that while there is no exact “domestic violence assault” charge in military law, that existing policies would have covered his domestic assault conviction by a general court-martial.
“If his assault charges or assault convictions were based on a fact-pattern that resembled a domestic violence case, and my understanding was it was against his wife and child, then that would qualify a prohibition under the Lautenberg Amendment,” explained Barthel.
The Lautenberg Amendment prohibits people with domestic violence convictions from possessing a firearm.
In response to Monday’s findings, the Air Force announced they were launching a review of their criminal record notification system.
In a statement, Air Force Spokesperson Ann Stefanek wrote:
“Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein directed a complete review of the Kelley case by the Air Force Office of the Inspector General. The Service will also conduct a comprehensive review of Air Force databases to ensure records in other cases have been reported correctly. The Air Force has also requested that the Department of Defense Inspector General review records and procedures across the Department of Defense.”