Justice Dept. Orders Review of Gun-Buyer Background Checks

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jan 9, 2018

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GunsIn the wake of the murder of 26 people at a Texas church last November, the US Justice Department has ordered a federal review of a database used to check the backgrounds of gun buyers.

The killer in the Texas, Devin Patrick Kelley, age 26, was a former member of the Air Force who was court-martialed in 2012 on charges of assaulting his wife and stepson, cracking the baby’s skull.

He served 12 months in prison and received a “bad conduct” discharge in 2014.

Kelley’s mother-in-law attended the church where he killed the congregants. Victims included eight members of one family and at least 12 children.

Kelley was wounded by a bystander as he left the church, and shot himself in the head as he drove away.

Kelley used a Ruger AR-15 variant — similar to service rifles carried by members of the US military.

Federal Database

According to the New York Times, the Air Force failed to enter Kelley’s name into a federal database that might have prevented him from buying the gun he used to kill the church-goers.

Under federal law, there are 11 criteria that should prevent someone from buying a gun. Reasons include conviction of a crime punishable by more than a year in prison and conviction of a domestic violence misdemeanor.

The Times reported that the Department of Defense had only added one service member to the registry due to domestic violence charges. 11,000 service members have been reported, most due to dishonorable discharges.

A spokesperson for the San Antonio gun shop where Kelley bought guns said that the sales were approved by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. The System is also called “NICS.”

No License

Kelley was rejected for a license to carry a handgun in Texas, but a state license isn’t required to buy a gun in Texas as long as the buyer passes the federal background check.

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that he was asking the FBI and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to review the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

A bipartisan group of US senators has introduced legislation that would improve the federal background check process.

The bill would require federal agencies and states to improve processes for reporting criminal offenses and other relevant information to the database.

The new law would be called the “Fix NICS Act.”

Gun Control

According to the Times,

the new measure would require federal agencies and states to produce plans showing how they intend to comply with existing laws governing reporting to the background check system. It would reward states that comply with financial incentives by making it easier for them to get federal grants. And it would penalize federal agencies that fail to report to the system by barring bonus pay for political appointees.

A recent poll showed that 60% of US voters favor stricter gun control laws, and 94% of those living in households with gun favor universal background checks for people who buy guns.

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