By Jeff Knox: Opinion
Buckeye, AZ –-(Ammoland.com)- The brutal assault on a Baptist church in a small town in Texas is reverberating through the U.S. military, and the results are not going to be pretty.
The murderer who killed 25 worshipers in a Texas church, had previously been found guilty of domestic assault in an Air Force court-martial.
He'd served a year in confinement and received a Bad Conduct discharge from the service. He had also been sent to a mental institution after making threats and trying to smuggle guns onto an Air Force base and was reported to have “escaped” from that facility shortly after that, suggesting that this was an involuntary committal.
What that all adds up to is that this dirtbag should have been prohibited from purchasing a firearm through legal channels. The second assault conviction appears to qualify as a felony for federal gun law purposes, which would make him a “prohibited person.” Even if that conviction didn't rise to the level of a felony, the fact that the victims were his wife and step-son, means that it was a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence, which would certainly have made him a prohibited person. The information on the “escape” from the mental institution is sketchy, but if it were indeed an involuntary commitment for mental health reasons, that too would disqualify him under federal law from purchasing or possessing a firearm or ammunition.
Still, on several occasions over the ensuing years, this low-life was able to walk into a gun store, fill out the federal forms – lying about his criminal and mental health history – pass federal background checks, and purchase firearms.
The reason he was able to do this is that the Air Force failed to submit his criminal records to the National Crime Information Center so they would be discovered when the National Instant Background Check System queried that system with his firearm purchase information. The NICS check came back clean, and this guy walked out with the guns.
Of course, this created a mad scramble among the brass at the Air Force, but the panic quickly spread throughout the Pentagon, and soon inspectors general and military auditors were combing through the criminal and mental health records of every service, and forwarding records to the NCIC and other data centers around Washington, D.C. They all knew early on that they had documents that hadn't been adequately reported, and they wanted to be sure that when they were forced to admit that fact, they would also be able to report that they had already begun to rectify the situation.
And these aren't just cases of records not being sent in. There is also a problem with the way the military has been classifying certain crimes, particularly assaults involving domestic partners.
The problem is that the Lautenberg Amendment, the piece of legislation that added misdemeanor, domestic violence convictions to the list of things that trigger a permanent loss of Second Amendment rights, makes no exceptions for those who must handle firearms in the line of duty, whether in the military or law enforcement. That means that even a minor conviction for a domestic violence charge, doesn't just result in a small fine or extra duty, it is a career ender. Even office workers and computer technicians in the armed forces are required to train, qualify, and re-familiarize with weapons on an annual basis, and if they can't legally do that, they can't serve in the military. The services are required to kick them out.
I recall a case of a young soldier who phoned home from Afghanistan, only to have a man answer the phone, and then hears his new wife describe in detail what that man was doing to her at that moment. Of course things went downhill from there, and at some point the soldier threatened to come home and shoot them both. This error in judgment, like the marriage itself, was a big mistake, as the woman was recording the soldier's end of the conversation. She filed charges against him for threatening her with a weapon. He ended up pleading guilty to that charge and paid a small fine. Then he was kicked out of the Army, and his right to possess a firearm was lost forever.
Many military leaders don't like service members marrying at all, and they certainly don't like losing trained people over momentary lapses during a heated domestic quarrel, so things began being swept under rugs, reclassified, and “lost.”
Now all of those records are being “found,” and a lot of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines are going to suddenly find themselves out of a job, perhaps losing retirement benefits, and losing their gun rights, when they thought they had already paid the price for their mistakes.
There won't be much discussion about this aspect of the military record audits in the dominant media. What discussion there is will approach it from the perspective that a “wife-beater” deserves what they get. What no one will talk about is the fact that none of this helps anyone, and it hurts many.
Yes, the cowardly scumbag who murdered all of those people in Texas should have been prohibited from purchasing guns through legal channels, but it is doubtful that such a prohibition would have made a whit of difference. This was an evil, demented person, who had decided that he had been wronged, and deserved revenge – from babies, teenage girls, and little old church ladies. Whether with a gun or a can of gasoline, he was going to get his revenge, and the notoriety that would come with it.
Meanwhile, thousands of service members – and their families – will be re-punished for long-past crimes. Though they were never going to harm anyone outside the line of duty, they will pay an additional price for this scum's heinous crime.
About Jeff Knox:
Jeff Knox is a second-generation political activist and director of The Firearms Coalition. His father Neal Knox led many of the early gun rights battles for your right to keep and bear arms. Read Neal Knox – The Gun Rights War.
The Firearms Coalition is a loose-knit coalition of individual Second Amendment activists, clubs and civil rights organizations. Founded by Neal Knox in 1984, the organization provides support to grassroots activists in the form of education, analysis of current issues, and with a historical perspective of the gun rights movement. The Firearms Coalition has offices in Buckeye, Arizona and Manassas, VA. Visit: www.FirearmsCoalition.