Political News

Flake, Heinrich to introduce bill to close gun loophole

Posted November 7, 2017 2:04 p.m. EST

— Sens. Jeff Flake and Martin Heinrich are planning to introduce bipartisan legislation that will make it a law for military to report misdemeanors of domestic violence to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, the database used for firearms background checks.

Flake, a Republican, and Heinrich, a Democrat, are introducing the legislation after gunman Devin Patrick Kelley, who killed 26 people inside a small Texas church on Sunday, was armed with an assault rifle and 15 loaded magazines in the deadliest shooting in Texas history. He had previously been convicted of domestic violence by a military court.

"Writing a bill w/ @MartinHeinrich to prevent anyone convicted of domestic violence -- be it in criminal or military court -- from buying a gun," Flake tweeted Tuesday.

"Senators Flake and Heinrich are working to ensure any individual convicted of domestic violence -- whether it is in criminal or military court -- cannot legally purchase a firearm," a source close to Flake told CNN. "Currently, the military is not reporting misdemeanors of domestic violence to NICS, the database utilized for firearms background checks, and it's not clear that they can under current law. Their bill will permanently close this loophole, which was exploited by the shooter in Sutherland Springs, Texas."

On Monday, the Air Force acknowledged it did not relay Kelley's court martial conviction for domestic assault to civilian law enforcement that could have prevented him purchasing the firearms used in the shooting.

Kelley was court-martialed in 2012 for two counts of Article 128 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, assault on his spouse and assault on their child, spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said Monday. Kelley received a bad conduct discharge, confinement for 12 months and a reduction in rank, she said.

The failure to relay the information prevented the entry of his conviction into the federal database that must be checked before someone is able to purchase a firearm. Had his information been in the database, it should have prevented gun sales to Kelley.

Flake announced that he will not run for re-election last month in a blistering speech on the Senate floor that bemoaned the "coarsening" tenor of politics in the United States.

Sen. John Cornyn, the Republican whip, also told CNN that the Senate judiciary committee will hold a hearing on bump stocks, which allow semi-automatic weapons to function like automatic weapons, and expect the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to testify "about what the best and most efficient approach would be" for dealing with them. They also plan to ask whether the ATF has the legal authority it needs to regulate them.

Cornyn says he and Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein requested the hearing. There are no additional details about when the hearing would take place.