After every mass shooting come the calls for new laws. Let us consider one of the thousands of existing laws: The Lautenberg Amendment to the Gun Control Act of 1968, which took effect in 1996, makes it a felony for those convicted of misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence to ship, transport, possess, or receive firearms or ammunition. This alone should have prevented the Texas killer from ever buying a gun.
The Air Force has admitted that it had failed to enter the killer’s domestic violence court-martial into a federal database that would have lit up his background check and blocked him from buying gun.
The shooter admitted to beating his wife and fracturing the skull of their infant son as part of a pretrial agreement. He was convicted in an Air Force military court in 2012 at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico. He could have received 30 months, but was only sentenced to 12 months and served a year in the brig at Miramar Air Force Base in California.
When you buy a gun from a dealer, a Firearms Transaction Record, or Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Form 4473, must be filled out. Buying a gun requires a complete and signed Form 4473, government-issued photo ID and a National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) background check
The 4473 contains a short affidavit stating that the buyer is eligible to purchase firearms under federal law. There is a series of questions which must be answered correctly or the dealer may not sell you the gun. The Texas shooter lied on three of these questions:
Have you ever been convicted in any court of a felony, or any other crime for which the judge could have imprisoned you for more than one year, even if you received a shorter sentence including probation?
Have you been discharged from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions?
Have you ever been convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence?
Lying on the form 4473 is a felony and can be punished by up to five years in prison. The form is followed by the NICS checks which reveal records of criminal history which would also prohibit the purchase. Prosecutions for false statements on the 4473 are rare unless there is another felony committed with the gun after purchase. According to the DOJ, of 556,496 denied transactions between FY 2008 and FY 2015, federal prosecutors prosecuted an average of under 32 cases per year.
The killer had three guns with him: a Ruger AR-556 style rifle, a 9mm Glock handgun and a .22 Ruger handgun. He bought the rifle from Academy Sports in San Antonio. He bought another gun in Texas and two more in Colorado. ATF officials have said that he obtained these guns legally. I think they should reconsider this.
The fatal combination of lies by the killer and criminal incompetence on the part of the Air Force made these gun sales possible. The laws were on the books to prevent the killings but multiple system failures made over lapping laws impotent.
Are you listening Congress? Let’s make sure government agencies register felons and prosecute felony lies on the 4473. Every sale turned down by the NICS checks should be investigated by ATF.
Anything less is criminal.