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Everytown, Moms Demand Action Applaud Sens. Cornyn And Murphy for Introducing Bipartisan Legislation to Improve Background Check System

November 17, 2017

Alleged Mass Shooter in Sutherland Springs, Texas, Was Court Martialed, Convicted for Assaulting Wife and Stepson, But Still Able to Buy Guns Because the Air Force Never Submitted His Conviction Record to NICS Background Check System

Some States Routinely Fail to Submit Prohibiting Records to the Background Check System

NEW YORK – Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a part of Everytown, released the following statement today applauding Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) for introducing bipartisan legislation to improve the criminal background check system. The bill would add accountability measures to help ensure that federal agencies submit records of convicted criminals, domestic abusers and other people prohibited from possessing guns into the National Criminal Background Check System (NICS), and give states incentives to submit their records into the system, including by rewarding states that comply with preference for Department of Justice grants.

The alleged Sutherland Springs, Texas, mass shooter was discharged from the U.S. Air Force after being court martialed for assaulting his wife and fracturing the skull of his infant stepson. This conviction should have prohibited him from possessing firearms under federal law. However, the Air Force failed to enter the record of the conviction into the federal database for firearm background checks. As a result, the alleged shooter was able to pass a background check and purchase the rifle used in the shooting from a licensed gun dealer near San Antonio in April 2016.

This reporting lapse was not the Air Force’s only record submission failure. In fact, an Inspector General report looking at the two years immediately preceding the shooter’s conviction found that in 30 percent of cases the Air Force failed to submit final criminal records to one of the FBI databases that make up the background check system.

Each record submitted to NICS is critical for public safety – just a single gun sale to a person prohibited from possessing firearms can lead to tragedy.


“The Sutherland Springs, Texas, mass shooting was another deadly reminder that the criminal background check system is only as good as the records it contains. This bipartisan legislation is an important first step to improve the background check system, and keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers and criminals. A majority of mass shooters in this country have histories of domestic violence, and we’re glad that Sens. Cornyn and Murphy are working in a bipartisan way to address gaps in the background check system that allow people with dangerous histories to obtain firearms.”


“Sutherland Springs is just a short drive from my house, and like too many Americans, I now know what it feels like when horrific gun violence hits close to home. As a gun owner who has voted for both political parties, I’m glad to see Senators Murphy and Cornyn work together in a bipartisan manner on this important step forward for gun safety. This bill alone will not solve our gun violence epidemic, but it will make common sense improvements to the background check system, help keep guns away from domestic abusers and criminals, and ultimately, save lives. Congress should set politics aside, and pass this into law.”

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