Earlier this month, an Air Force veteran with multiple convictions for domestic assault and who had been involuntarily hospitalized for mental health reasons walked into a Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas and opened fire, killing 26 men, women, and children. The weapon he used, a modified AR-15, had been legally purchased, along with a number of other firearms police found inside his vehicle, drawing attention to the Air Force’s method of reporting convictions under the Uniform Code of Military Justice to the federal background check database.
On Wednesday, the Air Force released a statement acknowledging their failure in reporting the convictions of the Texas shooter, as part of a general failure in the branch’s reporting procedures. According to the statement, although the procedures were in place, a lack of necessary and appropriate training has permitted a number of similar convictions to go unreported.
“The review also found the error in the Kelley case was not an isolated incident and similar reporting lapses occurred at other locations. Although policies and procedures requiring reporting were in place, training and compliance measures were lacking.” The statement reads.
The issue likely lies in the break in terminology between the Uniform Code of Military Justice and civilian law. Assault, whether domestic or otherwise, falls under Article 128 of the UCMJ, though non-domestic assault convictions do not necessarily bar an individual from being able to purchase firearms. Because the UCMJ classifies both forms of assault under the same over-arching classification, administrative staff would have had to review the entirety of each case when making a determination regarding the Air Force’s requirement to report the conviction to the FBI’s National Crime Information Center’s Interstate Identification Index.