The world reacted in horror when news came Sunday of the massacre of Christians at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. They gathered—and Jesus was among them, as He promised believers—but somehow evil penetrated their worship.
The shooter, Devin Kelley, killed Pastor Frank Pomeroy’s 14-year-old daughter Annabelle. He killed eight members of the Holcombe family, including Crystal, who was eight months pregnant. He murdered Joann Ward, along with her 5-year-old daughter Brooke and 7-year-old daughter Emily.
He was dressed in black tactical gear, carrying a rifle and came in the church from behind the parishioners, as they sat in pews. He shot and shot and shot until 26 adults and children, including Carlin who would have been born next month, were dead.
“Do something.” That is the phrase we heard in pained social media posts and talking to others after the devastating mass murder. It’s our human nature to be repelled by evil and want to do something to protect the innocent.
The immediate response from the Democratic leadership in Congress, former President Barack Obama, and Hollywood liberals was to call for more gun control laws.
But the government passing more firearms laws is not going to “do something” other than infringe on a constitutional right. This is because no gun control law in the U.S. has been proven to reduce gun crime. I often debate gun control advocates and repeatedly ask them to tell me what law, at any level of government, has resulted in a reduction of gun crimes. They can never answer that question.
There may be a way we can “do something,” by looking to see if there is a communications problem between the Pentagon and the FBI.
Kelley was already a danger to society, for at least five years before this horror in Texas. In 2012, the Air Force airman was court-martialed for assaulting his wife and child. He pled guilty to a felony. He was sentenced to confinement for 12 months, a reduction in rank, and discharged from the service with a “bad conduct discharge.”
According to federal law, a member of the military who is dishonorably discharged can never again possess a gun. Also, it is also against federal law for anyone convicted of domestic violence to own or buy a gun.
We learned on Monday that the Air Force did not turn over those records to the FBI for inclusion in the instant background check system, referred to as NICS. This is in violation of Pentagon rules and the federal firearms laws that we enacted by the Brady Act of 1993.
Since he was released from the military, authorities said Kelley bought one gun a year for the past four years from retail stores in Colorado and Texas. This should never have happened with not one, but two of the strikes against him that are normally in the database.
If the Air Force had given Kelley’s records to the FBI as law enforcement, courts, and others are required to do, the mass murderer might have been caught. When a person is rejected by the FBI background system, it goes to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to investigate. There are a lot of false flags in the system, so it would have been a long shot, but it’s possible that federal investigators might have shown up at his door asking questions.
I’m not claiming that this horrific massacre could likely have been prevented. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said there is a connection between that church and the shooter, so he was hell bent on destruction. If he couldn’t have bought the guns legally, he could have bought them from drug dealers or built a bomb or used a truck. Demented evil murders are virtually impossible for law enforcement to stop in advance.
But, going forward, we can “do something” to possibly save other lives. There needs to be an immediate federal investigation to find out if this was a one-time mistake by the Air Force, or part of a larger problem of not sharing information with the FBI. If it’s a larger problem, are the other branches of the military putting this key data into NICS? On the flip side, was the FBI aware that its background checks were not complete without all this information?
People of faith know we live in a broken world. And there is nothing we can do now to save the lives of the good Texans who went to church on Sunday morning and the devil walked in behind them.
However, God takes the worst of our lives and, if we ask Him, can make good come from it. We don’t know yet what could come from this horror.
I would guess the Christian families of the innocent victims in Texas would agree that God can do more than “something.” He can do anything. But for now, we pray to Him to comfort the suffering families and bring to heaven the innocent souls lost at church on Sunday.