In coverage of the latest mass shooting at a Texas church, the New York Times notes a correlation in mass acts of violence:
When Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control group, analyzed F.B.I. data on mass shootings from 2009 to 2015, it found that 57 percent of the cases included a spouse, former spouse or other family member among the victims — and that 16 percent of the attackers had previously been charged with domestic violence.
Social scientists have not settled on an explanation for this correlation, but their research reveals striking parallels between the factors that drive the two phenomena.
This, in turn, reminds me of a small piece of legislation handily thrashed by the gun lobby in the 2017 Arkansas legislative session: It was to prohibit gun ownership by people convicted of misdemeanor domestic battery or stalking.
The shooter in Texas, Devin Kelley, got a bad conduct discharge from the Air Force after he was court-martialed for assaulting his wife and child. Various media reports have said Kelley in-laws may have been members of the church where the shootings occurred. Reports today say his mother-in-law received threatening texts from the gunman.
A dishonorable discharge precludes firearms ownership, but Kelley’s discharge fell short of that. Felony assault also would preclude gun purchases, but reporting so far hasn’t established exactly where Kelley fell on those scales. It’s also not known how he obtained multiple weapons, including a semi-automatic military-style rifle, in his possession. Background checks are required by licensed firearm dealers, but private party sales can evade that requirement. The gun lobby has opposed legislation to make background universal, closing the so-called gun show exemption.
UPDATE: More contradictions. Reporting from CNN quotes the Texas governor as saying the shooter was denied a carry permit by the state. But he reportedly cleared a background check to buy a weapon at a San Antonio shop.
ALSO: The shooting calls attention to the “boyfriend loophole” in federal gun law. Spouses convicted of domestic abuse are prevented from buying new guns, but the law doesn’t apply domestic partners. And it doesn’t affect any guns already owned by spouses.