Texas Gov. Abbot: Gunman was denied gun permit

The gunman in Sunday’s mass shooting at a church in rural Texas was not legally eligible to buy firearms and had been denied a state gun permit, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said Monday.

“Current law, as it exists right now, should have prevented him from being able to get a gun,” Abbott told “CBS This Morning.”

“I can tell you that before he made this purchase, he tried to get a gun permit in the state of Texas and was denied that permit.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Abbott did not say when the permit was denied, nor did he cite the reasons why, saying only that it was due to “either answers, or the lack thereof, that were provided in his request.” Because Texas does not require a permit to purchase or own firearms, Abbott’s reference appears to be to a request to carry a gun.

Twenty-six churchgoers were killed, and at least 20 others injured, during Sunday’s shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, a small town about 30 miles east of San Antonio. 

Devin Kelley, 26, whom law enforcement identified as the gunman, had previously served in the Air Force but was court-martialed in 2012 for an assault on his then-wife and child. Two years later, he was discharged for “bad conduct,” according to numerous reports.

Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt said Monday that Kelley killed himself after fleeing the scene. 

Federal law prohibits the sale of firearms to certain people, including felons, spousal abusers, undocumented immigrants and the severely mentally ill. Licensed gun dealers are required to screen potential buyers through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, an FBI-run database created by Congress in 1993. Nonlicensed dealers, such as private venders at gun shows and on the internet, are not subject to the screening requirement, creating a loophole that most Democrats and some Republicans want to close.

Abbott said it’s unclear how Kelley was able to obtain the military-style rifle used in the shooting, but predicted investigators will uncover that information in the coming days. 

“It’s clear that this is a person who had violent tendencies,” he said. “How that got through the cracks, I don’t have that information.”

Speaking at a news conference in Tokyo, President Trump lamented the “very sad event,” but rejected the notion that the nation’s gun laws are too lax.

“We have a lot of mental health problems in our country, as do other countries, but this isn’t a guns situation,” Trump said

Abbott agreed, saying the proper response to Sunday’s shooting is to confront evil through prayer and other efforts to forge “a stronger connection to God.”

“We have evil that occurs in this world, whether it be a terrorist who uses a truck to mow down bikers in New York City, whether it be a terrorist who uses bombs or knives to stab people,” he told CBS.

“And I’m going to use the words of the citizens of Sutherland Springs themselves, and that is, they want to work together for love to overcome evil, and you do that by working with God.”

Democrats have called for Congress to step in to make it tougher for violent people to get their hands on firearms.

“We have a solemn obligation to the victims of Sutherland Springs, Las Vegas, Orlando, Newtown and the many tragic shootings that occur each day to respond not only with prayer and unwavering love, but with action,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Sunday in a statement.