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Who is Really to Blame for the Sutherland Springs Massacre?

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U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez

On Wednesday, the U.S. Justice Department announced it will settle lawsuits (in principle) from more than 75 plaintiffs in the 2017 Sutherland Springs church shooting massacre to the tune of $144 million.

Despite the mainstream media’s love of sensationalizing and politicizing mass shootings, that was not a headline that most Americans read yesterday, and for good reason. The details of the story paint a sordid picture of ineptness and negligence at the highest levels of our government that resulted in the deaths of 26 Americans and the injury of 22 others. In this case, it was also, arguably, quite preventable.

Let’s suspend reality for a few moments and play a game the left loves to play: While we at News2A acknowledge that the deaths of those innocent Americans lay solely on the head of the deranged shooter, former Air Force member, Devin Patrick Kelley, let’s speculate about who or what else we can blame for such a tragedy. 

We won’t be so obtuse as to blame the inanimate objects that Kelly used to murder. But how did he come to have those firearms in the first place? 

Quoting directly from the Department of Justice press release issued yesterday:

Plaintiffs’ claims alleged that the Air Force was negligent when it failed to transmit to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) information about the shooter that would have prevented him from purchasing guns from a federally licensed firearms dealer.

Justice Department Reaches Multimillion Dollar Civil Settlement in Principle in Sutherland Springs Mass Shooting

The information the government knowingly failed to report included child battery, felony assault, domestic violence and a history of mental illness.

As Fox News reported:

Kelley had served nearly five years in the Air Force before being discharged in 2014 for bad conduct, after he was convicted of assaulting a former wife and stepson, cracking the child’s skull. The Air Force has publicly acknowledged that the felony conviction for domestic violence, had it been put into the FBI database, could have prevented Kelley from buying guns from licensed firearms dealers, and also from possessing body armor.

DOJ agrees to $144M settlement in Sutherland Springs shooting civil cases alleging background check negligence

The government’s failure was so egregious that U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez actually apportioned a percentage of blame in a July, 2021 ruling filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, finding that the Air Force was “60 percent liable” for the attack and adding:

“[T]he evidence shows that — had the Government done its job and properly reported Kelley’s information into the background check system — it is more likely than not that Kelley would have been deterred from carrying out the Church shooting.”  He initially awarded victims $230 million.

Ironically, the DOJ appealed the order to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on the grounds that they weren’t really at fault because the shooter would have found a way to obtain a firearm, even if he had been in the NICS database. Even NPR recognized the hypocrisy in this position:

…court documents filed this week, the Department of Justice pushed back on paying damages and denied that they were primarily responsible for the shooting — a move that gun control advocates say not only harms victims and their families, but is also a backwards step for the Biden administration’s own stance on gun control policy.

DOJ appeal in Texas mass shooting case pleases NRA and puzzles gun control advocates

Here the government suggests background checks won’t work and tacitly acknowledges what every person with a modicum of common sense knows: people with evil intent will find a way.

As the national conversation on gun control and universal background checks rages, with Democrats calling for ever more restrictions in the form of red flag laws, social media monitoring, firearms confiscation, revocation of FFL licenses, and so forth, we should pause and reflect on some simple conclusions from this entire situation.

  1. While calling for ever more restrictions on our constitutional rights, our own government has failed to use the very resources and tools designed to prevent violent felons from obtaining firearms. This is not a subtle point. It undermines the narrative we’ve been fed –  that government exists to protect us and has the public welfare in mind.

  2. When properly used, the NICS system works. In fact, had Kelly’s felony history been reported to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) which is available by phone 17 hours a day, seven days a week, including holidays, he would have been denied the ability to legally purchase firearms.

  3. By the government’s own admission, you cannot stop someone with evil intent. Had Kelley been in the NICS database, this deranged killer surely would have attempted to find other ways to kill and harm. It begs the question: does gun control as we know it today really work? The government seems to be on both sides of the issue.
  4. A good guy with a gun helped stop a bad guy with a gun. It has been widely reported that Stephen Willeford, a Sutherland Springs resident, helped stop Kelley’s murder spree, when he opened fire on Kelley during his assault on church congregants. While Kelly later died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, an autopsy determined Kelley was shot by Willeford twice with his AR-15. These actions surely discouraged Kelly from continuing his rampage, as after exchanging gunfire with Willeford, he got in his truck and fled the scene. Willeford’s selfless actions saved countless lives.

The DOJ settlement story should be in the headlines for weeks if not months. It illustrates every lie that has been told in the anti-gun narrative, while simultaneously reinforcing that evil exists, and it is our natural right, and our Constitutional right to be prepared to use deadly force with firearms in defending our own lives as well as those of our families, neighbors and loved ones. 

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