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Can the next Sutherland Springs massacre be prevented?

Can the next Sutherland Springs massacre be prevented?

“I can tell you that before he made this purchase, he tried to get a gun permit in the state of Texas and was denied that permit.”

After large-scale tragedies the quest to prevent the next mass shooting begins.

In the case of the Sutherland Springs shooting, the federal government’s failure to properly report Devin Kelley’s violent past may have allowed him to possess weapons to which he should not have had legal access.

Kelly, an Air Force veteran, had been court-martialed in 2012 for domestic abuse charges. He had beaten his wife and fractured the skull of his infant step-son.

As USA Today reported, that conviction ought to have prevented Kelley from legally purchase fire arms, but thanks to an Air Force reporting error, Kelley was able to purchase weapons.

But in the Texas case, the veteran who killed 26 people and wounded 20 others shouldn’t have been able to buy a gun legally because of a violent crime conviction on his military record, a fact that the Air Force failed to relay to the FBI background-check system.

That has given GOP lawmakers an opportunity they can use to show they’re acting on the tragedy, even if it’s just to push government agencies to follow laws already on the books.

Devin Kelley had been convicted by a military court for beating his infant stepson. That conviction should have barred him from buying weapons. But the Air Force never flagged the offense in the National Criminal Information Center database.

The federal database may have failed, but when Kelley sought a license to cary a gun (which type of license has not been released), the state of Texas denied his request.

The Hill has more:

“Current law, as it exists right now, should have prevented him from being able to get a gun,” Abbott told “CBS This Morning.”

“I can tell you that before he made this purchase, he tried to get a gun permit in the state of Texas and was denied that permit.”

Abbott did not say when the permit was denied, nor did he cite the reasons why, saying only that it was due to “either answers, or the lack thereof, that were provided in his request.” Because Texas does not require a permit to purchase or own firearms, Abbott’s reference appears to be to a request to carry a gun.
Twenty-six churchgoers were killed, and at least 20 others injured, during Sunday’s shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, a small town about 30 miles east of San Antonio.

When it comes to preventing “the next Sutherland”, the compulsion to “do something” as is always the demand is admirable, but what does that look like?

Back to USA Today:

“How about enforcing the laws we’ve got on the books?” House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told reporters Tuesday after he was asked how to stop gun violence if he wasn’t willing to support gun control legislation. “This man should not have gotten a gun, you know why? Because he was a domestic abuser. We have laws on the books that says if you’re a domestic abuser you’re not supposed to own a gun.”

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas announced Tuesday that he was introducing a bill to try and encourage federal agencies — including military services — to put all convictions in the system.

“Because there was no record of it, (Kelley) was able to lie his way into getting these firearms. This is very clearly a problem, and the Air Force has now admitted that Kelley’s conviction should have barred him from ever purchasing or possessing firearms,” Cornyn said on the Senate floor Tuesday.

“There are enormous problems with the background check system … this is one of those areas of consensus on a very contentious topic,” Cornyn said.

As NRO’s Charles C.W. Cooke notes, Kelley ought not have been free to roam the streets after beating the daylights out of his family.

The system failed. One tiny bureaucratic error led to the loss of 26 lives. But the bureaucracy didn’t pull the trigger, Kelley did. Any system is only as reliable as it’s weakest point and there’s simply no way of eradicating human or even technology malfunction and error.

We have laws designed to prevent men exactly like Kelley from committing heinous crimes. Sometimes those laws are deterrent enough, in this case, they weren’t. And as long as we’ve been a nation, murder has been a capital offense, yet murders are a daily occurrence.

I don’t know why bad things happen. I don’t understand why good, innocent people are snuffed out before what we believe ‘their time’ ought to be. But I do know that laws, as many of them as we wish to pass, will never change the heart. Neither do laws possess the ability to cure evil.

We live in a fallen world where evil abounds, where people make mistakes on paperwork, and where the best of us depart too soon. In none of these instances is government any use.

Follow Kemberlee on Twitter @kemberleekaye


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You’re essentially hoping for a change in the culture, not a change in the law. I think this is the proper path forward.

If I had my way, every media outlet would voluntarily precede any mention of any mass murder’s name with the phrase “pathetic loser”. I believe attaching a social stigma to these monsters would go a long way to discouraging the next round of fools from trying to grab the national spotlight in this way.

    Milhouse in reply to Semper Why. | November 8, 2017 at 12:42 pm

    Don’t name them at all. If I thought saving lives were more important than liberty, and were therefore willing to ignore the Bill of Rights to prevent such incidents, I’d start with the first amendment rather than the second, and the first thing I’d do is make it illegal to report these killers’ names.


<sigh> Court martialed.

The elephant in the room is that, for better or for worse, this assumes he would not have been able to acquire a gun had his name been added to the correct registry.

The other elephant is that if the government (here, the Air Force) were to enforce all the laws on the books, this would be a massive police state and taxes would be through the roof. Which laws get enforced without exception, and which laws get subjective enforcement?

    OnTheLeftCoast in reply to filiusdextris. | November 8, 2017 at 1:03 pm

    In this case it’s not the USAF’s lack of _enforcement_ of laws, it’s the USAF’s lack of _compliance._

    And according to the AP, it’s not just the Air Force:

    “The Pentagon has known for at least two decades about failures to give military criminal history information to the FBI, including the type of information the Air Force didn’t report about the Texas church gunman who had assaulted his wife and stepson while an airman.”

    The military is notorious for NOT reporting criminal convictions to NCIC. The Air Force is probably the best service for reporting criminal convictions to civil authorities. the military views itself as separate and apart from most civilian authority and it always has. What happens in the service stays in the service.

    But, even if the shooter had been in the NICS database, he could still have acquired this rifle, through other sources, including the black market. Or, he could have walked in with a box full of Molotov Cocktails and started tossing them about, or parked a truck or trailer full of homemade explosive outside the church and detonated it. People are desperately trying to find an answer to stopping this type of attack which does not force them to alter their perception of reality to acknowledge that such threats exist and have to be addressed on a daily basis.

    and it would never occur to a pathetic loser to go rent a truck from Home Depot and try to take out a bunch of innocent people.

So, it was not a legal (e.g. rational, intention), but rather process failure. This is a very human aspect of evolution.

nordic_prince | November 8, 2017 at 1:20 pm

Can the next massacre be prevented? Sure, but what price are we willing to pay?

The only surefire (no pun intended) way to prevent situations like this is to lock us all up in our own prison cells, and even with that eventually someone would come up with a way to circumvent the system.

People who clamor for safety necessarily wind up relinquishing their liberty, and in the end have neither safety nor liberty.

The absolute worst thing we could do now is cave in to a knee-jerk reaction, such as all these calls to “do something.”

    Rick the Curmudgeon in reply to nordic_prince. | November 8, 2017 at 9:07 pm

    You can’t keep drugs and weapons out of a maximum security prison. HTH are you going to keep them out of a free country?

    “Sure, you can have a country with no abortions, drugs, “gun violence” etc. But you don’t want to live there.”

He should not have been out of the military brig yet and the p.c. culture that has been pervading the military, especially since Obama was in office, has undermined the justice system. The JAG officer who let Bergdahl off the hook is a case in point. Over and over again, political correctness is actually harming ordinary, hardworking citizens. Sure, let felons vote in Virginia; sure, let felons out of jail early; sure, don’t impose the mandatory sentences in the military system. Thanks to the ACLU we destroyed the ability to involuntarily commit crazy people, so they live on the streets and/or commit heinous crimes. This country has gone mad and the “inmates ARE running the asylum!”

Bill Whittle does a pretty good job in this video essay. Even though on Facebook, it could offer some insight.

This loser was leaving red flags everywhere and nobody took any action. He had a nice SUV, an expensive collection of firearms, didn’t miss too many meals from the photos I’ve seen. . . so where did he get his money? Unarmed security guard at a waterpark? Give me a break. Just as in Columbine, Sandy Hook, Aurora, and so many other places someone with known mental problems strikes out. The question we should be asking is why didn’t the parents of these monsters do something, anything? They simply turned a blind eye and let their precious children slaughter others. I hope the father of this SOB is held responsible.

    …if he beat your daughter and grandson, I’m sure the pigs’ GI tracts would have sorted it out.

    Rick the Curmudgeon in reply to 94Corvette. | November 8, 2017 at 9:10 pm

    Yes, what ABOUT his parents? Have they been interviewed or made a statement?

    And nevermind about his conduct in the Air Force, HTH has he remained out of jail and firearms-eligible considering his post-Airforce behavior?

Bureaucracy will save us from evil.

Given his history, he should have been restrained and under observation at an insane asylum… and the guns should have been under legal ownership of someone with a mind and means to exercise rights and responsibilities.

Bucky Barkingham | November 8, 2017 at 2:28 pm

If this tragedy hadn’t happened in Texas I would expect the law suits against Ruger and Academy Sports to have already been filed. The actual guilty party (or parties) are those USAF clerks who failed to follow the law, but they are nameless and won’t face justice. Similarly the command officers who failed for years to ensure that the rules were followed are also not going to be held accountable. Their efforts were “good enough for Government work” as the old saying goes.

In none of these instances is government any use.

Cheer up—government can always makes things worse. That has to count for something.

In this case, obviously, what American needs is more gun-free zones. That’s about all the government can manage, so that’s what it will try to impose. Even though they make things worse.

Of course this particular atrocity was precisely the sort of thing our entire gun-control regimen was (ostensibly) intended to prevent. And it failed. Or rather, government failed—no blaming the “gun lobby” or “loopholes” or any other fantasy. So much for the feds. Exactly what besides the NICS failed depends on details of that Texas did or didn’t do, and somebody seems reluctant to release that info.

Prevented – no

Minimized – yes. Everyday citizens carrying.


In 1993 my home town experienced a similar mass shooting. It was one of the earlier ones.

The guy was known as a mean SOB by all.

Some of the neighbors did return fire. I’m told one guy had glass on the shooter with a .308, but didn’t want to become a target himself by LEO or the surviving scumbags of this dude’s family (also bad apples).

No law you could put on the books would have stopped this turd or others like him.

If you did try to prevent this type of SOB with laws, we’d have no civil liberties at all and he’d find some other way to kill.

    Andy in reply to Andy. | November 8, 2017 at 3:09 pm

    The shooter BTW is serving life in Walla Walla.

      alaskabob in reply to Andy. | November 8, 2017 at 3:44 pm

      I hope by now he is well abused…

        According to local gossip over the years, he’s the one doing the abusing. A teen arson tried as an adult ended up there and shared a cell with him. It didn’t go well for the teen.

        I’ve been told the only reason the shooter lived was because the newbie cop who took him down with a sniper shot broke the supposed protocol of a double tap and only shot him once. I never questioned that claim until now, because I’m thinking it would have been a bolt action (for a sniper application from several hundred yards out) making a double tap against a standing target impossible.

        On the upside, he’s creating jobs in Walla Walla.

As “filiusdextris” said above, USA Today is reporting the elephant in the room, even if they don’t seem to realize it, let alone acknowledge it:

But in the Texas case, the veteran who killed 26 people and wounded 20 others shouldn’t have been able to buy a gun legally because of a violent crime conviction on his military record, a fact that the Air Force failed to relay to the FBI background-check system.
Devin Kelley had been convicted by a military court for beating his infant stepson. That conviction should have barred him from buying weapons. But the Air Force never flagged the offense in the National Criminal Information Center database. [emphasis added]

Here’s the elephant: NICS is broken.

In IT, the concept is called “GIGO”: garbage in, garbage out. IOW, your awesome catch-all database is only as good as the data you feed into it. The fact is, 94% of firearm purchase delays are false positives — a person flagged who should not be — and this case (among others) now document actual false negatives — a person NOT flagged who SHOULD be.

Anyone pushing to expand the background check system because of this tragedy — or for that matter, the Las Vegas tragedy — is being disingenuous at best. All the background checks in the world won’t stop a damn thing if the database is incomplete and fails to flag people who by law shouldn’t be buying guns.

But even with all the talk of “should have”, don’t expect the MSM to grasp or report the underlying problems with NICS.

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office responded to the Texas mass shooting on Sunday by posting a tweet a day later advertising its active shooter response training. The tweet elicited a wide variety of responses, ranging from enthusiastic support to condemnation. “Are you saying church congregations should be armed/guarded?” Ananda Kelley tweeted. “That is awful. What kind of world do you want your grand children to live in?” The sheriff’s office replied: “A safe one, where a bad guy with a gun can be eliminated by a good guy with a gun – regardless of where that is”

MaggotAtBroadAndWall | November 8, 2017 at 3:49 pm

We go through this because, regardless of what they say, the left’s end goal is to ban most private gun ownership.

We know this must be true by piecing together a few data points and drawing reasonable inferences from them.

First, gun homicide rates declined 49% between 1993 and 2013.

Second, I haven’t put this data into a spreadsheet to get the exact number, but eyeballing it I estimate about 90 million-ish new guns were manufactured between 1993 and 2013.

Since gun homicide rates declined sharply as the number of new guns manufactured and sold increased sharply, the relationship between the variables is an inverse correlation.

Guns increased. Gun homicide rates declined.

There is NO EVIDENCE THAT REDUCING THE NUMBER OF GUNS AVAILABLE WILL CHANGE CRIME RATES. It would be wrong to conclude that the increase in the number of guns CAUSED the decline in the homicide rate, but it is not wrong to say that the old adage we’ve heard our whole life that “more guns equal more crime” is flat out false. At least based on those 20 years of data.

Since they still want to restrict gun laws even though gun homicide rates have declined 49%, I can only conclude they don’t care about the data. It’s about emotions. They want guns banned for emotional reasons. So every time there’s a mass shooting, they use it to try to create the political will to restrict guns.
Then just keep chipping away. Sort alike what they did with smoking.

With smoking, in the beginning they said they only wanted to ad labeling to the packaging to warn people about the risks from smoking. Then they banned advertising for cigarettes on TV. Then cigarette taxes went up. Then they restricted smoking to certain seats on airlines. Then they banned smoking on all airline.
Then it varies by state, but in general they began to restrict smokers to certain areas in restaurants. Then banned it entirely in restaurants. Then banned it in office buildings. Then in public parks. And so on.

It took about 40 years but now just about the only place it is legal to smoke “in the land of the free” is in your own home. And if you rent or own a coop or condo, it may be illegal to smoke there. (P.S. I’ve never smoked in my life, I just hate seeing how they’ve restricted the liberty of the people who do smoke.)

I think that’s the goal with guns. Keep amping up media attention after major incidents in order to start chipping away at gun rights. Then just keep chipping away like they did with smoking.

As Russ Feingold said during the Wisconsin protests, “it’s not over until we win.” They want guns banned and it’s not over until they get it. Even if it takes 40 years.

Lovely post, Kemberlee. It really is a puzzle as to why good people have to suffer and die at the hands of the evil.

As far as your title question: no, sadly, we cannot, and certainly not by banning guns. One of the tweets that I saw in response to Elizabeth Warren’s call for more gun control sums it up. She’s screaming for gun laws to stop criminals from shooting and killing people, the response, to paraphrase, hey! here’s an idea, let’s make killing people illegal.

Why can’t the left grasp that the lawless, criminals, don’t obey laws. By definition.

Tx didn’t issue a concealed carry permit but that doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with his criminal record. If you owe child support, you don’t get a license. I suspect he was in arrears.

Sure, blame the ‘p.c. culture’. I figured someone had to spin this away from the obvious. This atrocity (not tragedy) is as far away from liberal culture as you can get and still be in this country.

You have the great state of Texas (red as blood). You have a white southerner, probably raised as a christian, who has a huge, festering, grudge. You have an environment where it is easy to get extremely lethal weapons (legally or not). You have a military that doesn’t feel bound by civilian law. No, Obama did not in any way, shape or form either directly or indirectly signal or instruct the military to not report crimes to the NCIC. Similarly, he did not encourage leniency in spousal abuse.

Suck it up!

Important viewing:

Bill Whittle: The News Media Knows How To Stop These Massacres, But Refuses To Do It:

Paul In Sweden | November 9, 2017 at 4:44 am

No new gun and immigration laws, enforce the old ones, jail the violators and then revoke the laws that have been found to be useless and counter productive.

“…when Kelley sought a license to cary (sic) a gun (which type of license has not been released), the state of Texas denied his request.”

We only have one type of license for firearms in Texas. After recently eliminating the immediate post-Reconstruction statute criminalizing open carry of a handgun*, our former Concealed Handgun License (CHL) became a License to Carry (LTC), authorizing licensees to carry a handgun concealed or openly carried in accordance with the law. There is no other Texas issued firearms license.

He failed the complete background check required for the issuance of the LTC. Don’t know what information in the check resulted in the denial, but it is a thorough check.

* For some reason the carpetbagger politicians were concerned about being shot.

    Rick the Curmudgeon in reply to Edward. | November 9, 2017 at 10:02 am

    He was denied the LTC because the background check revealed his BCD. The BCD isn’t enough to Federally disqualify him to own firearms, but is enough to disqualify him for a LTC at the state level.

      A “bad conduct discharge” is not a disqualifier under fed or state law. But the state background check found something. He was a felon, domestic abuser and had been in a mental institution. None of that was reported to NICS.

        An honorable discharge from the military is required for the issuance of a Texas LTC. This is why a DD214 is required for issuance, the applicant is a military veteran. And it is a simple matter to verify if an applicant was ever in military service.

        However, even if the NICS had known about the BCD, that would not have disqualified Kelly from purchasing a firearm. Only a Dishonorable Discharge would trigger a denial.

          Fiftycaltx in reply to Mac45. | November 9, 2017 at 12:56 pm

          Are you trying to say you have to have served in the military to get a Texas LTC? If so, you are 100% wrong. If you are saying that ONLY “honorable discharge” is eligible for a LTC, you are still wrong. Only a “dishonorable discharge” is a disqualifier.

          Edward in reply to Mac45. | November 9, 2017 at 5:49 pm

          The DD 214, the Copy 4 “Long Form” which shows the character of service, is only required if the individual is claiming the reduced fee for Veterans. If you are paying the full fee, no DD 214 is required.

          Mac45 in reply to Mac45. | November 9, 2017 at 8:33 pm

          Not being a resident of Texas, I look up the applicable statutes [ ]. I was in error, as to the general requirement for an honorable discharge for a veteran to be issued a TLC. An honorable discharge is only required if a veteran is under the age of 21 and wishes to be issued a TLC or if a veteran wishes his license to state that he is a veteran and pay the reduced licensing fee. This clause is what caused my confusion. Also, there is no place in the statutes where it states that a dishonorable discharge is disqualifying. According to current Texas statute, only convictions for certain types of criminal acts are disqualifying.

          These licensing laws differ from state to state and change, periodically. So, confusion can occur, as it does with regard to whether it is legal to carry a firearm, uinder a TLC, into a church or other place of worship, in Texas. Until January of 2016, this was prohibited. Now it is only prohibited if certain specific signage is present.

          Fiftycaltx in reply to Mac45. | November 9, 2017 at 9:18 pm

          Dishonorable discharge is a disqualifier under this: (9) is fully qualified under applicable federal and state law to purchase a handgun

          And the law regarding churches, “amusement parks” and others dates back to 1997.

      He might have been denied because of his year in the stockade. He might have been denied for his involuntary commitment to a mental institution. He might have something else on his record, he was far from being a model citizen. In any event only DPS knows, at this point, why he was denied. We can speculate, but it’s sort of a waste of time as he provided a target rich environment.

“One tiny bureaucratic error led to the loss of 26 lives.”


One tiny bureaucratic error did not prevent the loss of 26 lives.