The United States Air Force admits they dropped the ball on the Sutherland Springs killer. This isn’t a point of contention, and it’s not something that anyone can justify. Not really. There’s a reason they’re being sued.
However, it now looks like he may not be the only one who slipped through the system.
Dozens of Air Force service members charged with or convicted of serious crimes were never reported to the federal gun background-check database as required, Air Force officials said on Tuesday.
The revelation came after the Air Force disclosed that it had failed to report the domestic violence conviction of [the killer], the gunman who opened fire at a church in Texas this month. Under federal law, [his] court-martial conviction for domestic assault should have prevented him from purchasing at a gun store the rifle he used in the attack, as well as other guns he acquired over the past four years.
After the Air Force admitted on Nov. 6 that officials at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico had failed to report the results of Mr. [his] court-martial to the federal background database, it began an investigation into how many other serious incidents had not been reported.
Although officials have only examined a portion of the cases, several dozen have already surfaced that were not reported but should have been.
“The error in the Kelley case was not an isolated incident and similar reporting lapses occurred at other locations,” the Air Force said in a statement. “Although policies and procedures requiring reporting were in place, training and compliance measures were lacking.”
And the number of cases that were not properly reported by the Air Force could grow: There have been about 60,000 incidents in the Air Force since 2002 involving service members that potentially should have been reported to the federal background-check database. All of those incidents are now being reviewed by Air Force officials to see which ones were required to be reported, and how many of those actually were. Air Force officials were unable to say on Tuesday how many of those 60,000 cases have gone through the review process so far.
The Air Force said they’re reviewing the situation and assessing whether those responsible need to be punished. However, with that many potential incidents floating around it’s hard to imagine punishing the people responsible for this one will accomplish much besides being a band-aid on the problem at best.
And this is just one branch. Is this systemic throughout the armed forces?
There’s literally no upside to this just now. While the conditions needed to exist for someone to look at such a heinous act as this as a good idea are probably pretty rare, we don’t know how many ticking timebombs may be walking among us right now.
Granted, the number is probably zero, but that’s not really comforting. This is the kind of thing we’d all like to have a fair bit of certainty with, especially when this is something that should have been dealt with before.