U.S. Senator announces bill to strengthen background checks

WASHINGTON D.C. (KLTV) - Following a  shooting at a south Texas church that left 26 people dead, a U.S. senator announced planned legislation to strengthen the country's background check system.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-TX, announced the plans Tuesday on the Senate floor.

The legislation incentivizes federal agencies, including the military, to upload the already-required criminal conviction records into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

"No community finds it easy to deal with unexpected heartbreaking losses like this," Cornyn said. "But the fact that this crime involves so many tightly-knit friends and neighbors and occurred in a house of worship on a Sunday morning and harmed so many innocent children makes the task much, much harder. As each new detail emerges from what is still an ongoing investigation, we need to study the whole puzzle, ask ourselves how did this happen, why so many lives were lost and what if anything could have been done to prevent it."

Cornyn also discussed the gunman's background.

Authorities say Devin Patrick Kelley was able to buy weapons because the Air Force did not report his domestic violence conviction to the federal database.

The Associated Press reports that federal officials said Monday that the Air Force didn't submit Kelley's criminal history, despite being required to do so by Pentagon rules.

"We know, for example, that the gunman was court-martialed by the Air Force and convicted of serious domestic abuse, fracturing the skull of his own (step)son," Cornyn said.

The senator called the information critically important.

"Because there was no record of it, he was able to lie his way into getting these firearms. This is very clearly a problem, and the Air Force has now admitted that Kelley's conviction should have barred him from ever purchasing or possessing firearms," Cornyn said.

An Air Force spokeswoman says the service is reviewing their handling of Kelley's case.

"I plan to introduce legislation, and I'd be happy to work with my colleague from Connecticut, to ensure that all federal departments and agencies, including the Department of Defense, upload the required conviction records into the national database," the senator said.

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