Following the Tragic Shooting in Sutherland Springs, Senators Collins, Toomey Call for Comprehensive Review of Military Policies to Ensure Individuals Who are Prohibited from Possessing Firearms are Properly Reported to FBI

The Senators Directed the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security to Provide a Report and Regular Updates on the Investigation

In light of the Air Force’s failure to report Sutherland Springs shooter Devin Kelley’s criminal record to the FBI, U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) wrote to Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke today, urging them to conduct a comprehensive review of the military’s reporting procedures of criminal records.  The Senators requested a report as well as regular updates on the investigation.

 

If the Air Force had submitted Kelley’s 2014 domestic violence conviction to the National Criminal Information Center (NCIC) database in accordance with federal law, he would have been prohibited from purchasing or owning a firearm.  As a result of this oversight, Kelley was able to purchase at least four firearms since his conviction, including the firearm that was used in Sunday’s shooting.  The Air Force has initiated an investigation into this case, but Senators Collins and Toomey called for a wider review to help prevent a tragedy like the one that occurred in Sutherland Springs from occurring in the future.

 

“We urge you to conduct a review of the NCIC database reporting procedures across all Armed Services components for the past decade,” Senators Collins and Toomey wrote.  “We further request a full review of military records and databases to ensure criminal records in other cases have been reported correctly.”

 

“The 2007 NICS Improvement Act directs federal agencies to report records identifying prohibited persons to the Attorney General no less than quarterly,” Senators Collins and Toomey continued.  “This incident raises the question of whether there are other gaps in the military’s criminal records reporting procedures. In addition, inmate in-processing could provide an additional opportunity for the Armed Services to check that cases are properly reported.”

 

The signed letter can be read HERE.  The full text of the letter is below:

 

Dear Secretary Mattis and Acting Secretary Duke:

 

We write to express our strong concerns with the apparent failure on the part of the United States Air Force to report records identifying an individual prohibited from legally receiving or possessing firearms to the Attorney General for inclusion in the National Criminal Information Center (NCIC) database. Following the tragic shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, on November 5, 2017, the Air Force announced that the gunman’s domestic violence offense was not entered into the NCIC database. We understand that the Air Force has initiated an investigation into this case, and that the Department of Defense has also launched a review of how the gunman’s criminal records were handled. We urge you to conduct a review of the NCIC database reporting procedures across all Armed Services components for the past decade. We further request a full review of military records and databases to ensure criminal records in other cases have been reported correctly. 

 

According to law enforcement reporting, the gunman, a former Airman, was convicted by a general court martial on two charges of domestic assault against his wife and stepson under Article 128 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. These convictions make it illegal for an individual to buy or possess a firearm under federal law, yet the failure to enter the gunman’s criminal conviction into the NCIC system prevented the shooter from being flagged in the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). This allowed him to purchase at least four firearms over the last four years, including the firearm used in this horrific shooting.

 

The 2007 NICS Improvement Act directs federal agencies to report records identifying prohibited persons to the Attorney General no less than quarterly. This incident raises the question of whether there are other gaps in the military’s criminal records reporting procedures. In addition, inmate in-processing could provide an additional opportunity for the Armed Services to check that cases are properly reported. We welcome your views on this and other potential improvements.

 

Please provide us with a report and regular updates on the details of this investigation and the actions the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security are taking to ensure that military records across the Armed Services are accurately and consistently reported to the NCIC, in accordance with federal law. Thank you for your attention to this important issue.