Looking for answers in the Nov. 6 mass shooting in Sutherland, Texas’s First Baptist Church killing 26, injuring 11, the mass killer Devin Kelley had a long history of animal cruelty and domestic abuse. Dishonorably discharged from the Air Force in 2014, Kelley was charged with domestic abuse, cracking the skull of his young stepson. While divorced in 2012, Kelley remarried n 2014, eventually taking his rage out on his mother-in-law for a new episode of domestic abuse. Responding from a five-day Asian tour in Japan, 71-year-old President Donald Trump said that it was premature to talk about changes to gun laws when families were grieving their losses in the Nov. 6 massacre. Trump said that Kelley’s problems were caused by mental health issues, not primarily lax gun laws. With the Oct. 1 Las Vegas slaughter still raw, killing 58, injuring 546, the public wants answers.
Mass murders have much in common, typically misanthropes with histories of poor relationships and social isolation. Looking for answers, Kelley’s former classmate 26-year-old Reid Mosis from sixth to ninth grade said Kelley was a loner, heavily sedated on psychiatric medications. Trump’s point about Kelley’s mental illness begs the question about new gun control legislation. When you see the histories of mass killers, there’s mental illness in the backgrounds, something no longer in dispute. Texas Atty. Gen. Ken Paxton said today that he wants responsible church members to arm themselves with semi-automatic weapons to better respond to incidents like the one at First Baptist Church. While it’s possible that armed guards might have stopped Kelley more quickly, there’s no way to know what would happen if amateurs used automatic weapons.
When the dust settles from the latest incident, it’s time for the National Rifle Association [NRA] to get behind including mental health background checks in routine gun screenings. If gun stores require Department of Justice background checks of all legal gun purchases, it’s possible to include Medical Information Bureau [MIB] data related to gun applicants’ mental health histories. While it’s possible MIB checks would not catch all mentally ill gun applicants, it’s better than nothing. Today’s gun laws already exclude convicted felons from acquiring handguns or rifles. Including MIB checks does nothing to compromise the Second Amendment, giving non-felons the rights to bear arms. Whatever drugs Kelley was taking before the Nov. 6 massacre will eventually come out in the autopsy. If Kelley was taking psychiatric drugs as a child, adolescent or adult, it’s relevant information.
Kelley’s teenage psychiatric history was confirmed by his classmate Mosis, painting a picture of a future mental train-wreck. “I know his parents had him on heavy doses of meds in middle school,” said Mosis. “A lot of friends that knew him said he was too sick in the head to deal with by senior year of high school,” tracing the history of mental illness early enough to have taken some kind of preventive action. Given that Kelley purchased his AR-15 assault rifle legally, the system is broken, unable to stop mental cases from buying handguns and assault rifles. Paxton can’t really believe that arming ordinary citizens is the only answer to the cycle of violence plaguing today’s America. Paxton and NRA officials must get real that gun laws have to try to keep handguns and assault rifles out of the hands of mentally ill gun-buyers to prevent ballistic episodes.
Texas authorities believe that domestic issues triggered the Nov. 6 First Baptist Church massacre. “There was a domestic situation going on within the family and the in-laws,” said Freeman Martin, spokesman for the Texas Department of Corrections. Kelley sent his mother-in-law a threatening text message last Monday, knowing she sometimes attended First Baptist Church. Whatever the situation, it’s clear that Kelley had a long history of erratic behavior, something that should have been a red flag for his family. It’s inconceivable his wife or someone in the family didn’t know Kelley possessed an assault rifle. Mosis said Kelley posted a photo of his assault weapon in Facebook with the caption, “She’s a bad bitch.” With information about Kelley’s mental problems, his former classmates weren’t surprised when they found out he committed mass murder.
Sunday’s Texas church slaughter raises again inescapable questions about how to keep handguns and assault rifles out of the hands of mentally ill gun buyers. While Trump wants to let families grieve before dealing with gun control legislation, it’s high time for the NRA and Second Amendment advocates on Capitol Hill to consider new restrictions on mentally ill gun buyers. Psychiatrists have a difficult time of predicting violence, even when patients have histories of animal cruelty or physical and sexual abuse “To be completely honest, I’m not really surprised this happened, and I don’t know anyone who knew him is very surprised either,” former classmate , New Braunfeis native Courtney Kleiber posted on Facebook. Trump and other Second Amendment advocates, including the NRA, have work on keeping guns away from the mentally ill.