Military Rushed To Add 4,000 Dishonorable Discharges To NICS

(Photo from Flickr, by gregwest98, published under creative commons)

In the wake of Sutherland Springs, the military took a bit of a beating. It was understandable, particularly because the shooter should never have been able to purchase his guns. The Department of Defense failed to add him to the National Instant Check System (NICS) database, along with numerous others.


According to CNN, they immediately rushed to fix that mistake, adding over 4,000 dishonorable discharges to the system.

Since an ex-US airman shot more than two dozen people in a Texas church in November, the US military has added more than 4,000 names to the nation’s list of dishonorably discharged military personnel banned from owning firearms — a sign of what has been a massive hole in the nation’s gun buying background check system.

The gunman in the Sutherland Springs massacre had been kicked out of the military for assaulting his wife. By federal law, that should have prevented the shooter from purchasing his semiautomatic rifle, but the US Air Force later admitted it had not submitted his records to the FBI’s background check system.

In the months since, the US Department of Defense has scrambled to ensure all of its branches have properly updated the FBI’s system to track personnel kicked out of the military who are barred from owning firearms.

That push, a CNN review has found, has uncovered a backlog so significant that the FBI’s tally of dishonorably discharged former service members has ballooned by 4,284 names in just three months, a 38% leap.

The FBI figures track the reasons civilians and ex-military personnel are barred from owning guns. The agency separately quantifies dishonorable discharges, which includes personnel convicted by a general court-martial. Other types of military dismissals that could legally stop someone from owning a gun are not broken out from the civilian population in the FBI data.


The military’s primary function is to defend this nation, not enforce laws. However, within the military system, law enforcement becomes a key function of several units and departments. To call this problematic is an understatement.

We now know that thousands of people with dishonorable discharges were in a position to purchase firearms. These are people who have already proven to be a problem.

While most of those dishonorable discharges are people who have opted to just move on with their lives, some are perpetual hard cases who may well have had access to firearms.

That said, though, the military deserves credit for a quick response to the issue. It didn’t take the Fix NICS bill to make its way through Congress to prompt the DoD to take care of business. They stepped up and did it because it was the right thing to do.

Don’t get me wrong; politics probably played something of a factor here. The public relations nightmare for the DoD provided the proverbial kick in the rear to get things going.

But there wasn’t a lot of grandstanding about this either. There wasn’t a lot of self-congratulatory back-patting taking place. It was simply a matter of the powers that be demanding better.


I’m not going to lie; I can’t help but wonder how much of an influence the Secretary of Defense, retired Marine Corps General James Mattis, may have played in this response. While I don’t know Gen. Mattis personally, the impression I’ve always gotten was that he preferred to take care of business quietly and let things fall where they may, kind of like this case.

Frankly, this is how business should be handled by governmental entities. Too bad this is the exception, not the rule.

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