Lawsuit: Government negligent in Texas church massacre

"A family that lost several relatives during a mass shooting at a Texas church says the federal government was negligent by failing to report the gunman’s criminal information to a national database, according to a lawsuit filed this week." RNS

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TylerR's picture

Editor

In my experience, it's common for military security forces to fail to consistently fingerprint subjects and report adjudication information to the federal government.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Bert Perry's picture

In this case, keep in mind that if a person is convicted of a crime of domestic violence, they are no longer eligible to carry a gun.  So if you prosecute these things to the letter of the law, pretty much any soldier or sailor's career is done if you do this honestly.

They should, of course, but if you've got a vested interest in keeping a "good soldier" in the ranks, you're going to be tempted to do it wrong.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

TylerR's picture

Editor

The failure I mentioned isn't a conspiracy to keep military folks in the service. It's just carelessness.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Jay's picture

I think we can attribute errors like this to Hanlon's Razor and not overt malice.  Hanlon's Razor is "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity."

That being said, I'd be a lot happier if I knew that people were actually punished for these kinds of screwups.

Tyler, if I remember right, the UCMJ can and does stipulate various forms of punishment for DV, including counseling, correct?  And the penalties can range anywhere from fines to discharge and/or prison time?

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

TylerR's picture

Editor

There is no punitive statute for domestic violence. It'd be classified as assault and battery (Art. 128). This would be handled either by an administrative, non-judicial hearing (an Article 15 or, as the Navy informally calls it, "Captains Mast") or at a courts-martial, depending on the severity of the incident and what the commanding officer feels is the most appropriate venue. The counseling angle would likely be mandated by the suspect's command, likely before and separate from any criminal penalties.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Jay's picture

Thanks for filling me in, Tyler.  Appreciate it.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Bert Perry's picture

Jay, Tyler, no doubt that part of it was incompetence and/or laziness, but let's keep in mind that people do things for a reason.  People fail to take and preserve fingerprint records because it is work, and because their is no perceived penalty for failing to do so.  No?  

Now take a look at this NY Times report, and notice that (a) they learned that the written policy did not spell out the requirement for NICS reporting per the Lautenberg amendment,  and (b)  that of the offenses reported, only a tiny minority of those actually reported were domestic violence--Senator Flake noted only one incident since 2007.  Lots of other reports to NICS, just not for domestic violence.  If the UK's rate of convictions--92000 in 2015 corresponding to about half a million convictions annually in a nation the size of the U.S.--you'd expect about 500 reports, plus or minus, assuming that the military is about a tenth as likely to be convicted of this kind of crime as the nation as a whole.

In other words, there is a non-random reason that the reporting rate for domestic violence crimes is a couple of orders of magnitude lower than you'd expect.   The fact that such a NICS report would end the careers of any of the ~600k men in combat divisions in the Army and Marines, and even the Air Force requires rifle certification in basic training and in annual requalification for many skill sets.  So yes, reporting these crimes to NICS would indeed be an additional bleed on retention that might raise the ire of officers.

The question is not whether this incentive exists, but rather what portion of the problem is caused by it.  Either way, hopefully a new military justice protocol is correcting the omission, and hopefully that's something that they're looking for in their annual audits.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.