Debates have been raging across social media about how a court-martialed, dishonorably discharged Devin Patrick Kelley was allowed to purchase firearms, one of which was allegedly used to kill at least 26 people yesterday. Some say he wasn’t truly dishonorably discharged. Others say the law didn’t really prohibit it. Texas Governor Greg Abbott confirms Kelley was denied a gun license. So, what happened?
The latest report may shed some answers. NPR is reporting that following Kelley’s conviction, the Air Force didn’t report him to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System that would have flagged him as ineligible to purchase firearms. In other words, they’re saying it was a clerical mistake.
“This was mishandled by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, where Kelley was serving when he was arrested,” NPR’s Tom Bowman said, referring to word from an Air Force source. “An investigation is now underway, and the Air Force is taking it very seriously, said the source.”
No perfect system
In our technologically advances society, it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing everything pertaining to data is close to perfect. We don’t always account for human error because with so many automated system, things generally run pretty smoothly. That’s the perception. The reality is that there’s human error, technological error, and procedural flaws that come into play all the time.
It gives no solace to the family of the victims to know that this tragedy may have been avoided by proper filing of paperwork, but as with any system, it’s not perfect. It’s prone to errors. Can it be made perfect? Can things as serious as a violent criminal being barred from owning firearms be a reasonable expectation? One would hope the answer is yes, but the Texas church shooting tells us there’s a gap between reasonable expectations and true safety.
Procedural failure, not a failure of the law
Those calling for more or harsher gun control laws should know that this was not a failure of current laws. Kelley should never have been allowed to own a firearm, but the procedures were not followed and people died as a result.
We do not need more gun control laws. If anything, they’re too oppressive already in some states. Laws generally prohibit law-abiding citizens from owning firearms but do very little to keep guns out of the hands of would-be criminals.
What we really need is better enforcement of current laws. We need procedures to be followed. The law says Kelley should not have owned a gun but procedures made it possible for him to purchase them. That doesn’t mean we need more laws. We simply need better procedures to allow the laws to be enforced.
There will be plenty of fingers pointing in plenty of directions over the next few days. We cannot allow the emotion of the gun control arguments to sway us from reality. No gun laws would have stopped Kelley. Let’s evaluate this and previous situations with level heads and find real solutions for enforcement rather than wasting our time and making the nation less safe with harsher gun ownership laws.
A new report on Monday stated that the United States Air Force did not submit Devin Patrick Kelley’s criminal history to the FBI as required by the Pentagon, which would have prevented him from purchasing firearms.
Kelley, 26, opened fire on a congregation of churchgoers on Sunday, killing at least 26 people in the deadliest mass shooting at a place of worship in American history.