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Moms Demand Action, Everytown Applaud Sens. Flake and Heinrich For Introducing Bipartisan Legislation to Close Military Background Checks Reporting Loophole on Domestic Violence Convictions

November 17, 2017

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

Everytown Analysis Found Clear Linkage Between Mass Shootings and Domestic Violence: 54% of Mass Shootings Are Related to Domestic Violence or Family Abuse

NEW YORK – Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action, a part of Everytown, released the following statement today applauding Sens. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) for introducing bipartisan legislation to close a loophole in the background checks reporting system that enables domestic abusers convicted in military courts to still purchase firearms.

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.

The legislation introduced today by Sens. Flake and Heinrich would require the military to categorize anything that would have been a domestic violence conviction in a state court and submit it to the National Criminal Background Check System (NICS) within three days.

Each record submitted to NICS is critical for public safety – just a single gun sale to a dangerous person can lead to tragedy. The mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, is a crystal-clear example of that fact that the system is only as good as the records it contains.


“This bill is a good first step to improve the background check system and keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers who have been convicted in military courts, and we applaud Sens. Flake and Heinrich for working in a bipartisan way to close this loophole. The reality is a majority of mass shooters in this country have documented histories of domestic violence and Congress needs to do more to address this. The next step is for Congress to keep guns out of the hands of all domestic abusers and stalkers by passing bipartisan legislation by Reps. Dingell, Donovan and Sen. Klobuchar.


“The repeated mass shootings by men with dangerous histories of domestic abuse are senseless and preventable. This legislation is a step in the right direction and draws attention to the gaping loopholes in our gun laws. We must do everything in our power to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers. That’s why we’ll work to pass this bill, while also fighting for legislation to keep guns out of the hands of abusive boyfriends and stalkers, as the bill introduced by Reps. Dingell, Donovan, and Sen. Klobuchar would do. It’s time for Congress to act.”

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