Air Force Announces Changes to Improve Reporting Military Crimes to FBI Gun Background Check System

Lapse in Texas shooter's case 'not an isolated incident'

The US Air Force Thunderbirds / Getty Images

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The Air Force announced on Tuesday it would implement changes to how it reports disqualifying criminal records to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's gun background check system in the wake of its failure to report the Texas church shooter's records.

"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, 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 murdered 26 people with guns purchased after passing FBI background checks, had a disqualifying criminal history from his time in the Air Force, including a 2012 court martial for assault on his then-wife and stepson. The Air Force admitted the shooter was able to pass the background checks to obtain his guns because the service failed to report his criminal records.

The Air Force said its review found the personnel at Holloman Air Force Base who were responsible for reporting the Texas shooter's criminal records to the FBI failed to do so, and records for other people prohibited from owning or possessing firearms 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 said. "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 did not provide further details on the other reporting lapses.

Stefanek said the Air Force had policies and procedures in place which required the records to be reported, adding "training and compliance measures were lacking."

The Air Force said it has already moved to correct the problem and will take further action 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. "Additionally, supporting software, checklist and training changes were made to support the new procedures."

Two task forces of 30 service members have been assigned to review all Air Force criminal records dating back to 2002 in order to "ensure 100 percent compliance," she said.

The Air Force said its full review would be completed "over the next several months."

The Department of Defense is also 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 Washington Free Beacon they had reported problems with the way the military shared criminal records with the FBI nearly 25 years ago but were ignored. Their claim that record sharing was a decades-long problem that culminated in the Texas church shooting is supported by multiple Inspector General reports dating back to 1997, which highlight the military's failures.

A bipartisan bill introduced to Congress, the Fix NICS Act, in the wake of the attack would attempt to further compel the military to provide criminal records to the FBI. It has widespread support from both gun-rights and gun-control groups. It mirrors a 2007 law, the NICS Improvement Amendments Act, which sought to improve criminal record reporting in the wake of the Virginia Tech shooting where the shooter's disqualifying mental health records went unreported.

Stephen Gutowski   Email Stephen | Full Bio | RSS
Stephen Gutowski is a staff writer for the Washington Free Beacon. He founded his own site as a junior in college and has been writing about news and politics since that time. He spent 4 years with the Media Research Center and was most recently with the Capitol City Project. His email address is Gutowski@FreeBeacon.com. His twitter handle is @StephenGutowski.

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