Sutherland Springs Church Gunman Escaped from Mental Hospital in 2012: Your Texas Roundup
Plus: Another hearing in the SB4 case, John Cornyn calls for stronger gun background checks, and another Texas Republican will retire from Congress.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“What we want to do is start the healing process here. I want to make sure that we celebrate the lives of the people who were there.”
—Trey Ganem to CNN. Ganem owns a casket design company in Edna and is offering his services for free to families of those who were killed in the mass shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs on Sunday.
The gunman who killed 26 people at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs on Sunday had escaped from a behavioral health center in New Mexico in 2012, after he was caught attempting to smuggle guns onto an Air Force base to “carry out death threats” against military officers, according to the Washington Post. Devin Kelley was arrested by El Paso police following his escape. Officers wrote in the police report that they were told Kelley, who was in the Air Force at the time, “was a danger to himself and others” and “was also facing military criminal charges.” It’s unclear why Kelley was at the health center or if he ever faced discipline by the military for the death threats he made, though he was court-martialed that same year and convicted of abusing his wife and stepson after an incident where he cracked his stepson’s skull. The domestic violence conviction should’ve kept him from legally buying a gun in Texas, but the Air Force didn’t report his crime to a federal database, so it didn’t show up on his background check. Kelley used a Ruger AR-556 rifle in the massacre, a weapon he purchased from an Academy Sports & Outdoors store in San Antonio.
MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS
Yet another round in the legal battle over Texas’s anti-sanctuary city law, Senate Bill 4, went down on Tuesday in New Orleans, where attorneys for the state and opponents of the law argued for a second time before a panel of judges in the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, according to the Texas Tribune. Cities and counties, including Houston, Austin, San Antonio, El Cenizo, Maverick County, and El Paso County, and immigrants’ rights groups filed the lawsuit in May, when SB 4 was signed into law. Lower courts halted the law before it was supposed to go into effect on September 1, but eventually approved key parts of SB 4, including the part of the law that requires jails to honor all detainer requests from federal immigration authorities, until the case makes its way out of the appeals process. Tuesday’s hearing was the second for the SB 4 battle in the federal appeals process so far. It’s unclear when the appellate panel will make a decision. Afterward, both sides will have the chance to go to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Devin Kelley was able to buy the gun he used to massacre 26 people at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs because of a mistake by the Air Force during the background check process: The military branch failed to report Kelley’s domestic violence conviction in a military court to a federal database. Senator John Cornyn said on Tuesday that the background check system “failed us terribly,” and announced his plans to push legislation that would strengthen the nation’s background check system for gun buyers. Cornyn’s plan would create incentives for the military and federal agencies to quickly upload conviction records to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which cashiers must check to ensure that each customer does not have a criminal record before selling them a gun. Kelley’s domestic violence conviction should’ve been on that list. “Because there was no record of it, he was able to lie his way into getting these firearms,” Cornyn said, according to the Dallas Morning News. “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 is working with Connecticut Democratic Senator Chris Murphy on the background check overhaul.
Yet another Texas Republican has announced his retirement from Congress. U.S. Representative Ted Poe said on Tuesday that he won’t seek reelection in 2018, according to Politico. The seven-term congressman is the fourth Texas Republican to step down this year, joining U.S. Representatives Lamar Smith, Jeb Hensarling, and Sam Johnson. All four are of retirement age, and Poe, 69, has been battling leukemia since last summer, but it’s still surprising to see so many Republicans head out at once. The four Texans are part of a growing list nationwide of Republican retirements, with some of them clearly linked to the election of President Donald Trump. In a written statement released on Twitter, Poe gave no indication that Trump factored into his decision. “I am grateful for the honor and privilege to represent the best people in America, Texas’s Second Congressional District,” Poe, whose district includes some northern and eastern Houston suburbs, said in the statement. “Thanks to the good Lord, I’m in good health, but it’s time for the next step. I am looking forward to spending more time in Texas, especially with my 12 grandkids who have all been born since I was first elected to Congress. I am proud of the work that my office has accomplished: giving crime victims a voice, helping to combat human trafficking, and fighting for our constitutional rights and individual liberty.”
WHAT WE’RE READING
Some links are paywalled or subscription-only.
Voter turnout in the Rio Grande Valley was really high, and here’s why McAllen Monitor
Voters approved a massive $1.1 billion Austin ISD bond Austin American-Statesman
A fourteen-year-old boy allegedly threatened to shoot up a Garland school Dallas Morning News
Texas is about to carry out the controversial execution of a Mexican national Houston Chronicle
A resort in Boerne owned by George Strait burned down San Antonio Express-News