America’s extraordinary gun violence is enabled by a lack of both laws and responsibility. In a small but significant way, bipartisan legislation proposed by Sens. Jeff Flake and Martin Heinrich seeks to address both failings.
The man who killed 26 and injured 20 last weekend at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, had been court martialed in 2012, while he was in the U.S. Air Force, on charges of assault on his wife and stepson.
This conviction should have prevented the killer from purchasing several guns he acquired from licensed dealers. Yet the Air Force acknowledged this week that it had failed to enter the man’s name into a federal database used for instant background checks of firearm purchasers.
Background checks are still the best way to keep guns away from dangerous people, which is why safety advocates must continue to push to close the private gun sale loophole and to improve sloppy reporting to the background-check databases by all levels of government.
The bill from Flake, an Arizona Republican, and Heinrich, a New Mexico Democrat, is a step in the right direction.
The Pentagon’s failure may be a remnant of an era when domestic violence wasn’t taken seriously. This Senate bill will help move the law, and the nation, to a more responsible position on gun violence as well.