Air Force Will Change How It Reports to the Background Check System

The United States Air Force will be making much-needed corrections in its process of reporting criminal histories of former servicemen and women to the FBI and the National Instant Background Check System (NICS). Heather Wilson, the United States Secretary of the Air Force, appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee last Wednesday to address concerns that the senators and the general public have over criminals illegally purchasing firearms.

The Air Force found itself in some hot water after it revealed that the Sutherland Springs shooter, a former airman, received a “bad conduct discharge” for abusing his wife at the time and her stepson. Though the Texas shooter’s crimes made him a felon, the Air Force failed to report his criminal history to the FBI. Due to the missing information, the shooter was able to pass a background check that he should never have passed. If the Air Force had done its job initially, the tragic deaths of 26 people in their house of worship may have been prevented.

The Washington Times reported:

Multiple levels of command now have to confirm that required disclosures have been made to the background check system in all reported incidents, Ms. Wilson said.

“We have added steps to our case management process so that there are checks in the system as cases are closed and archived not only at the local office, but at higher levels of command,” the Air Force secretary told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. “In addition, case officers not only must submit fingerprints, they must check the FBI database to ensure that the records have been received and properly recorded by the FBI.”

She also told lawmakers it could take up to five months to complete a review of 60,000 cases in which service members potentially should have been reported to the federal gun background-check database. An initial review of cases, which date back to 2002, found several dozen instances records were not properly relayed to the appropriate federal databases.

The shocking figure is the need to review 60,000 cases as more “service members potentially should have been reported to the federal gun background-check database.” Not reporting criminal information to the proper authorities and not having that information be recorded into a database is extremely negligent.

At the moment, no one within the Air Force has been held accountable for the colossal screwup. But Secretary Wilson says that may change. The Washington Times states, “Once a final report on the incident is completed by the Air Force, Ms. Wilson said a decision ‘about any accountability or disciplinary action’ will be made. On Wednesday, she declined to discuss the status of the investigation.”

Last month, a bipartisan group of senators proposed legislation known as the Fix NICS Act, which looks to “penalize federal agencies who fail to properly report relevant records and incentivizes states to improve their overall reporting.” The bill also “directs more federal funding to the accurate reporting of domestic violence records.”

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) had this to say about the proposed legislation:

For years agencies and states haven’t complied with the law, failing to upload these critical records without consequence. Just one record that’s not properly reported can lead to tragedy, as the country saw last week in Sutherland Springs, Texas. This bill aims to help fix what’s become a nationwide, systemic problem so we can better prevent criminals and domestic abusers from obtaining firearms.

The Senate Committee of the Judiciary held hearings on the legislation on Wednesday. The House passed their own version of background check legislation last week in H.R. 38, which was tied to the passage of National Reciprocity.