Over a million people in Texas are licensed to carry a handgun. Texas, which is where a crazed gunman, Devin Patrick Kelley, shot 26 people to death at a church on November 5, also reports on the number of crimes published by legal owners of handguns. In 2016, two were convicted in Texas of murder and another two were convicted of manslaughter. If Texas were an independent Republic, as indeed is the aspiration of many Texans, homicide convictions among legal gun owners would be about 0.4 per 100,000 residents. 

In Kelley's case, he had no firearms license for the four guns in his possession. On his application for a firearm, he stated falsely that he had no felony convictions. In reality, he was convicted of serious domestic abuse, including battery of his step-child. For his crimes, he was court-martialed and kept in prison for a year and given a bad conduct discharge by the Air Force. In addition, he escaped a mental health facility. On November 5, Stephen Willeford -- a former NRA instructor -- confronted Kelley after the shooting and shot him twice with a rifle. Willeford was licensed to possess his rifle.

“Under current law, he should have been prevented from making this purchase,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said last week. “How that got through the cracks, I don’t have that information.” The Air Force is now reviewing Kelley’s criminal records. Because of his conviction on two charges of domestic assault, he should have been prohibited from buying or possessing firearms after the convictions. An initial investigation showed that his offense was not entered into the National Criminal Information Center database, which would have flagged his application for denial. The Air Force is seeking to determine why the information was not shared with the NCIC system. The error allowed Kelley to purchase his weapons, which included a Ruger AR- 556 rifle, a Ruger .22 pistol, and a Glock 9 mm pistol. 

By comparison, the homicide rate in England and Wales, where guns are strictly controlled and handguns are banned, is twice the rate for legal gun owners in Texas. In addition, convictions for legal gun owners in Texas for any crime is relatively rare.

According to an official report for March 2016, Britain’s Office of National Statistics noted:

“There were 571 homicides (murder, manslaughter and infanticide) in the year ending March 2016 in England and Wales. This represents an increase of 57 offences (11%) from the 514 recorded in the previous year.

“The number of homicides has shown a general downward trend over recent years and the 571 recorded was still one of the lowest levels since the late 1980s, despite having increased from the previous year.

“There were 9.9 offences of homicide per million population, and the homicide rate for males (13.8 per million population) was more than twice that for females (6.0 per million population).”

Illegal purchase

According to the Gun Trust Lawyer website, Kelley was prohibited from legal purchase or possession of a firearm:

"The dishonorable discharge is based on a general court-martial conviction. This means the conviction is a felony, regardless of what the underlying offense may have been. The convicted felon is banned from possessing a firearm including Title II Firearms (a Silencer, SBR, SBS, AOW, or Machine Gun.)”

“A person who is convicted of a crime that is punishable by imprisonment for more than one year (including a dishonorable discharge) is prohibited from possessing a firearm. Under 18 U.S.C. 922(g), a felon who is found guilty of gun possession may serve up to 10 years in prison.”

See Texas report here.

Note: This version of the article corrects an earlier version.



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Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.

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