Fact Check: Feinstein Wrong About Laws Stopping Sutherland Springs

It’s been two years since Sutherland Springs. It was a horrific event that runs through my mind every time I walk into a church. With 26 people killed, including one unborn child, in a small town church during services, it’s something that will be hard for anyone to get past for a good, long while.

Some people don’t want to get past it, though. Chief among those are anti-gun advocates who want nothing more than to use that horrible day to push their anti-gun agenda, people like Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who tweeted this earlier this week.

The question is, is she right?

Honestly, there’s a lot to unpack in just 240 characters, so let’s take it one step at a time. First, yes, it’s been two years since Sutherland Springs, and yes, the shooter had a conviction for domestic violence. That’s where the accuracy begins and ends.

The killer had been convicted of domestic violence several years earlier while serving in the United States Air Force. As a result, he was given a dishonorable discharge, which should have been sufficient to prevent him from purchasing any kind of firearm. The problem, however, was that the information wasn’t put into the National Instant Criminal Background Chech System (NICS) database.

Sen. Feinstein goes on to single out universal background checks as a bit of legislation that would have prevented the Sutherland Springs killer from buying his guns. If you knew nothing else about the case, you might be forgiven for believing that to be true. After all, how else could a convicted domestic violence offender get a gun unless he bypassed the background check process?

The problem is, he didn’t.

The killer purchased two firearms a year apart, both from licensed firearms dealers. In both cases, he passed the required background check. Again, the Air Force failed to provide information on his criminal history to the NICS database, the database used for conducting background checks. Had the killer sought to purchase a firearm from an individual in a world with universal background checks already in place, he still would have been able to obtain the firearm.

While Sen. Feinstein goes on to talk about other “commonsense bills” meant to avert these kinds of tragedies, she doesn’t single out anything beyond universal background checks. As such, it’s impossible to know what other laws she believes could have stopped a determined killer from murdering dozens of unarmed, innocent people.

Nor does Sen. Feinstein mention a man named Stephen Willeford.

Willeford lived across the street from the church. Upon learning about what was happening, he grabbed his AR-15 to meet the threat. When the gunman exited the church, he was still free to hunt more innocent people, but an armed citizen met the threat and fired his weapon, hitting the killer.

A chase then took place that ended with the gunman dead.

What Sen. Feinstein fails to note is whether or not her “commonsense bills” would have disarmed Mr. Willeford or not. That’s a fair question to be asked, one that we shouldn’t expect Sen. Feinstein to answer any time soon.

However, when looking at the factual nature of Sen. Feinstein’s tweet, it’s safe to say there isn’t much fact there to begin with.