Home News How the Sutherland Springs shooter got guns after a criminal conviction

How the Sutherland Springs shooter got guns after a criminal conviction


Devin Kelley was court-martialed and convicted by the Air Force for assaulting two family members. So how could he buy four guns?
No record of the conviction ever made it into the FBI’s criminal history file that feeds the national database gun sellers use use to vet customers, law enforcement officials say.

“There was no disqualifying information entered into the database,” said Fred Milanowski, special agent-in-charge of the Houston division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

Milanowski made the statement Monday, the day after Kelley opened fired at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, killing 26 people.
Gun sellers forward a potential buyer’s name and paperwork to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background System, also known as NICS. The system is comprised of state and federal criminal histories including those committed while in in the military.

If the would-be buyer’s application, which includes a fingerprint check, produces any disqualifying information, the sale would be delayed to give the FBI more time to investigate. If the agency confirmed the disqualifying information, the purchase would be denied.

The military is supposed to report convictions and dishonorable discharges to the FBI to include in the database. According to the Air Force, Kelley was sentenced to a year in military confinement for the 2012 assault of his first wife and a child and got a bad-conduct discharge in 2014. He served at least part of that sentence at the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar near San Diego, the Air Force confirmed.

That discharge would not have prevented Kelley from buying a gun, according to ATF spokeswoman Meredith Davis.

But the conviction should have, according to an official with specific knowledge of how the database system works.

“There’s nothing in there,” he told The Dallas Morning News regarding Kelley’s military conviction. “If you spend 12 months in jail or prison for a criminal offense that is nowhere to be found in state or FBI records, what is anybody supposed to do?”

Neither the Department of Justice nor the Air Force responded to requests for comment Monday.

Both the military conviction and the bad-conduct discharge should have prevented the 26-year-old Kelley from getting a security-guard license in Texas. But the Texas Department of Public Safety approved his license last summer.

If Kelley had disclosed he had been in the military, the agency would have asked him for his discharge paperwork.

DPS did not respond immediately to questions about whether Kelley hid his military service by answering no to a question about whether he had served in the military. The same unnamed official informed the News that Kelley did not disclose his military service to DPS when applying for his security guard license.

According to the ATF, Kelley purchased two guns in Colorado and two in Texas since 2014. The two in Texas were purchased at an Academy Sports store.
(c)2017 The Dallas Morning News — www.dallasnews.com
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