Changes are now being implemented in the way disqualifying criminal records are reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s background check system, as per the Air Force’s announcement on Tuesday in the aftermath of the incident of the Texas shooting at a church.
“The Air Force’s review of its reporting processes to civilian law enforcement in the Devin P. Kelley case has prompted immediate actions to correct reporting deficiencies and prevent future occurrences,” Ann Stefanek, the chief of media operations for the Air Force, said in a statement. “The Air Force’s review and corrective actions will continue over the next several months as the broader Department of Defense review proceeds.”
The review of the Air Force’s criminal records reporting process came in the wake of the shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. The shooter, who had murdered 26 people with guns purchased after passing the FBI background gun carrying checks, had a disqualifying criminal history from his time in the Air Force, including a 2012 court martial for assault on his own then-wife and his stepson. The Air Force had admitted the shooter was able to pass the background checks to obtain his guns because the service had failed to report his criminal records.
The Air Force says that the review they conducted found that the personnel at Holloman Air Force Base who were responsible for reporting the Texas shooter’s criminal records to the FBI had failed to do so, and records for other people were prohibited from owning or possessing firearms too were also not shared.
“Preliminary findings by the Air Force Inspector General confirmed the OSI and Security Forces personnel then assigned at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, did not report required information to civilian law enforcement in the Kelley case,” Stefanek further added. “The review also found the error in the Kelley case was not an isolated incident and similar reporting lapses occurred at other locations.”
The Air Force also did not provide any further details on the other reporting lapses.
Stefanek further said that the Air Force had policies and procedures in place which required the records to be reported, adding that the “training and compliance measures were lacking.”
The Air Force also said that it has already moved to correct the problem and will take further actions in the coming weeks.
“Among the new procedures is a leadership requirement at the field, regional and headquarters levels to verify that information from applicable cases is registered with the FBI’s National Crime Information Center’s Interstate Identification Index,” Stefanek said in his statement. “Additionally, supporting software, checklist and training changes were made to support the new procedures.”
Two task forces of 30 service members have been assigned for reviewing all Air Force criminal records that date back 2002 in order to “ensure 100 percent compliance,” she said.
The Air Force said that its full review would be completed “over the next several months.”
The Department of Defense is currently undergoing a comprehensive review of the entire military’s criminal record reporting process.
Last week, two former special agents for the Defense Criminal Investigative Service told the news source that they had reported problems with the way the military had shared criminal records with the FBI nearly 25 years ago but were completely ignored. Their claim that record sharing was a decades-long problem that had culminated in the Texas church shooting is supported by multiple Inspector General reports that date back to the year 1997, which highlight the military’s failures.
A bipartisan bill that was introduced to Congress, the Fix NICS Act, in the wake of the Texas attack would attempt to further compel the military to provide timely criminal records to the FBI. It has widespread support from both the gun-rights and gun-control groups. It mirrors a 2007 law, the NICS Improvement Amendments Act, which sought to improve the criminal records reporting in the wake of the Virginia Tech shooting where the shooter’s disqualifying mental health records were unreported to the authorities.