The gunman who slaughtered at least 26 people in a church near San Antonio, Texas, was able to buy a firearm at a sporting goods store even though he escaped from a New Mexico mental health facility in 2012 after he was caught sneaking guns onto a military base to carry out death threats against superiors and was convicted for breaking his stepson’s skull.
El Paso police officers were dispatched to a bus terminal after Devin P. Kelley‘s escape from Peak Behavioral Health Services, a 119-inpatient bed mental health facility in New Mexico, about seven miles away from the west Texas town.
Officers filed a report that said they were told Kelley, who intended to take a bus out of the state, “was a danger to himself and others” at the time and noted that he “was also facing military criminal charges.”
The mental hospital escape incident occurred the same year that Kelley was court-martialed at Holloman Air Force Base on charges of abusing his wife and her son, crimes for which he was sentenced to more than a year of confinement in November 2012.
Kelley apparently argued with his ex-wife’s mother prior to his attack on the church, where he apparently expected to find the woman.
Federal law prohibits selling a firearm to anyone convicted of a serious crime, with mental health problems, who engaged in domestic violence or received a dishonorable discharge from military service but none of those factors prevented Kelley from buying his deadly assault rifle in 2016.
President Donald Trump, who signed a bill into law in February, rolling back an Obama-era regulation that made it harder for people with mental illnesses to purchase a gun, remarked that gun control laws do not work in the wake of America’s fifth worst mass shooting in modern history.
The rule Trump reversed, would have added people receiving Social Security checks for mental illnesses and people deemed unfit to handle their own financial affairs to the national background check database.
Firearm background check records are critical tools law enforcement can use to identify corrupt gun sellers and purchasers but the FBI is required to destroy some records and Congress refuses to take important steps to fill the gaps in the law.
Though more than 90% of the American public supports background checks for all gun sales, a gaping loophole exempts unlicensed sellers from having to perform them before selling a firearm.
Critics say federal gun laws must be updated because the incomplete, antiquated and inefficient system is both dangerous and deadly.
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