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Lawmakers want change in how military reports criminal history

Want for change comes after mass shooting in Sutherland Springs

SAN ANTONIO – Lawmakers want change when it comes to how the military reports criminal history to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS.

The want for change comes after the U.S. Air Force admitted it did not submit Devin Patrick Kelley’s domestic violence conviction. That conviction would have shown up on a background check when Kelley purchased the gun used in the Sutherland Springs church shooting Sunday that claimed the lives of 26 people.

NICS has one Pentagon entry for domestic violence convictions as of Dec. 31, 2016. Republican U.S. Sen. John Cornyn plans to introduce a bill to incentivize reporting of military criminal history data.

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Currently, the requirement is based on an internal Pentagon rule that does not have the force of the law.

There was vital information unreported. It was a missed opportunity to halt the purchase of weapons, including the gun used to kill 26 people.

“According to the Department of Justice, the number of these records that are actually uploaded is staggeringly low. That is unacceptable and it must change,” Cornyn said.

That admission promoted the need for new legislation — a bill addressing the failure of federal agencies and the military.  

"We need to better understand why our existing laws didn't work in this instance, and that's what my proposed legislation will do,” Cornyn said.

Kelley served at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico. His laundry list of problems are well documented. He is accused of trying to carry out death threats against his superiors in the Air Force.

In June 2012, reports show Kelly was sent to a mental health hospital. He escaped but was captured by police at a downtown bus station in El Paso.

READ MORE: Sutherland Springs church shooter escaped mental health facility months after attack on wife, child

Kelley was initially sent to the mental health hospital after assaulting his wife and stepson. It was an attack that fractured the boy’s skull and led to a court-martial for Kelley.

In 2014, Kelley was booted from the Air Force on a bad conduct discharge.

“He was able to lie his way into getting these firearms. This is very clearly a problem, and the Air Force has now admitted that Kelley's conviction should have barred him from ever purchasing or possessing firearms,” Cornyn said.

READ MORE: Records: Wife of Texas church shooter filed for divorce days after violent 2012 attack

Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, met with Gen. David L. Goldfein to discuss how and why Kelley’s information was not shared and how that might change in the future.

Cuellar released this statement about the meeting:

“The general briefed me on the thorough review and retraining process the Air Force, and the Department of Defense as a whole, is conducting to ensure that nothing like this happens again.”

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