We have seen, many times over, how the absence of a background check or the presence of a limited background check exposes people to criminal activity. Some results of an absence or an incomplete background check have tragic results.
There are 26 empty white chairs at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Each chair represents a person who was killed when a gunman opened fire in the church in 2018. The victims ranged in age from 1 year old to 71, several of those killed were teenagers, and a pregnant woman and the child she was carrying also died. On Nov. 5, 2017, Devin Patrick Kelley of New Braunfels, Texas, was the assailant who ultimately turned a gun on himself.
This mass killing was entirely avoidable if only a proper background check was conducted.
As reported by the Washington Post, a judge determined in July 2021 that “[t]he Air Force was mostly responsible for the 2017 massacre at a Sutherland Springs, Tex., church because to federal law enforcement that could have prevented the attacker from buying guns…”
The Post story continues:
The gunman, former airman Devin Kelley, was convicted of domestic assault years before he opened fire during Sunday morning services, killing more than two dozen people. That military conviction would have prevented him from passing the background check for buying guns, but the Air Force never submitted his criminal record or fingerprints to the FBI despite having “an obligation — and multiple opportunities” to do so, according to U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez.
“[T]he evidence shows that — had the Government done its job and properly reported Kelley’s information into the background check system — it is more likely than not that Kelley would have been deterred from carrying out the Church shooting,” Rodriguez wrote in a ruling signed Tuesday and filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas.
Eric J. Ellman is Senior Vice President for Public Policy and Legal Affairs at the Consumer Data Industry Association (CDIA) in Washington, DC. He also served for eight months as Interim President and CEO of the Association. More