The Trace reports: A year before committing Sunday’s mass shooting at a tight-knit church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, Devin Kelley walked into a sporting goods store and bought a Ruger assault-style rifle that he should have been banned from owning because of his history of domestic violence. An agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said Kelley had lawfully bought two more guns that were found in his car after the massacre.
The question that reporters and investigators are now digging into is why he was able to make those purchases.
The answer may lie in differences between how civilian courts and the U.S. military, in which Kelley had previously served, treat domestic violence, and how each submits abusers’ records for gun background checks.
While enlisted in the Air Force, Kelley was convicted by a court martial of charges stemming from an assault on his then-wife and young child in 2012 and sentenced to a year in confinement. The offense was the equivalent of the civilian crime of misdemeanor domestic assault — one of the 12 categories of records that automatically bar someone from legal gun possession.
But the military has no distinct charge for domestic violence, notes Grover Baxley, a former judge advocate general who now practices military law as a civilian. “We see this all the time,” Baxley said. “There is no specific domestic violence article.” Instead, military prosecutors charge abusers with other offenses, like assault. [Continue reading…]