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COLUMN: In Sutherland Springs, gun laws weren't the issue



The United States has undergone a disgusting series of large-scale attacks in just the last few weeks. The largest mass shooting in modern U.S. history occurred last month and the fifth-largest mass shooting happened just last weekend. 

In 2017 alone, there have been 308 mass shootings involving four or more victims with a total of 13,251 deaths and more than 27,124 injuries. 

This has sparked more than enough debate on the issue of gun control. Former MSNBC host Keith Olbermann blamed the National Rifle Association by denouncing it as a “terrorist organization.”

But the problem is not the extent to which our laws permit the right to own guns, but rather it is the extent to which our government is cooperating with itself and enforcing these laws.

Last Sunday, Devin Patrick Kelley opened fire at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, killing 26 people and injuring another 20. This sparked talk of gun control from many members of the left, but what they fail to realize is  gun laws themselves were already strict enough to prevent the Sutherland Springs shooting, but the federal government failed to do its job properly.

Kelley served in the U.S. Air Force, during which time he was convicted of domestic assault against his wife. He pleaded guilty to charges of abuse and assault toward her, as well as his stepson.

These charges are more than enough to prevent Kelley from purchasing any kind of firearms under our current legal system. Those found guilty of domestic violence are barred from buying firearms.

Clearly something else in the system went wrong. 

Robert Burns, journalist for the Associated Press, writes: “Under Pentagon rules, information about convictions of military personnel in crimes like assault is supposed to be submitted to the FBI’s Criminal Justice Investigation Services Division for inclusion in the National Criminal Information Center database. For unspecified reasons, the Air Force did not provide the information about Kelley as required.”

The background check process in the U.S. in respect to firearms is perfectly adequate; it is the people carrying out these tasks that are the problem.

The Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban, often called the “Lautenberg Amendment,” was passed in 1996. It bans access to firearms for people convicted of crimes of domestic violence. 

It is purely a mistake of federal officials that Kelley was able to purchase a firearm and kill innocent citizens, not a mistake of gun policy itself. 

The USAF employees responsible for this mistake need to be immediately released from their positions.

Because of access to rightful gun ownership Stephen Willeford, the man who ultimately shot and chased down Kelley, was able to prevent many more deaths. 

It is not gun laws that are the issue. We need to focus on enforcing these laws more strictly and making sure errors in the system like this one do not happen again. 

smitheta@indiana.edu

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