Defense

GOP chairman ‘appalled’ by Air Force lapse on Texas shooter

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The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee on Tuesday said it’s “appalling” that the Air Force failed to notify the FBI about the criminal record of the man who attacked a church in Texas.

The lapse by the Air Force likely allowed the identified gunman, Devin Kelley, to purchase a weapon despite his conviction on a domestic violence charge. 

Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) vowed that his committee will conduct “comprehensive oversight” of the issue.

“I understand that [Air Force] Secretary [Heather] Wilson has initiated an investigation, but I don’t believe that the Air Force should be left to self-police after such tragic consequences. Furthermore, I am concerned that the failure to properly report domestic violence convictions may be a systemic issue,” Thornberry said. 

On Sunday, police say Kelley opened fire at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, killing 26 people.

Kelley, 26, died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, officials said. 

Kelley received a “bad conduct” discharge from the Air Force in 2014 after being convicted in court-martial of domestic violence.

The domestic violence conviction should have precluded him from buying a gun under federal law. But Air Force officials said Monday that the Holloman Air Force Base Office of Special Investigation did not enter his conviction into the National Criminal Information Center database.

The Air Force said Wilson and chief of staff Gen. David Goldfein have directed the service’s inspector general to work with its Pentagon counterpart to review the Kelley case and relevant policies and procedures.

In his statement, Thornberry commended the Pentagon inspector general (IG) for opening an investigation and said the committee staff will be looking into the matter as well.

“I commend the DOD IG for opening a broader investigation that will cover the entire department,” he said. “This morning, I directed committee staff to work closely with the IG and DOD as the committee begins our own comprehensive oversight of this matter.”

Thornberry’s statement comes after his Senate counterpart, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), promised that chamber’s Armed Services Committee will conduct “rigorous oversight.” Several Democrats on the committee called for a comprehensive review of each military branch’s criminal cases to see whether there have been other lapses similar to the Kelley case.

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