Church massacre a tragic lesson for military

Another mass shooting, more debate over gun laws.

As this debate rages on, it seems the nation just braces for the next tragedy. Who will be the next victims? What can be done to stop the madness?

Well, let’s start with the laws, regulations and requirements on the books nationwide and in individual states. The investigation involving the Sutherland Springs, Texas, shooting has uncovered that not even the Pentagon is following regulations.

As it turns out, a lapse in required reporting led to shooting suspect Devin P. Kelley to be able to purchase the guns used in Sunday’s church massacre. On Monday, the military acknowledged that it did not submit the shooter’s criminal history to the FBI, as required by the Pentagon.

Investigators also revealed that sheriff’s deputies had responded to a domestic violence call in 2014 at Kelley’s home involving a girlfriend who became his second wife. Later that year, he was formally ousted from the Air Force for a 2012 assault on his ex-wife in which he choked her and struck her son hard enough to fracture his skull.

On Tuesday, the AP reported the Pentagon has known for at least two decades about failures to give military criminal history information to the FBI.

Rep. Mac Thornberry, the Texas Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said he was appalled at the Air Force mistake and unsatisfied by its plan to investigate the matter.

“I don’t believe the Air Force should be left to self-police after such tragic consequences,” the congressman said.

Thornberry is correct in his criticism and concerns. The military has for too long failed to comply with rules for reporting service members’ criminal history data to the FBI. As recently as February 2015, the Pentagon inspector general reported that hundreds of convicted offenders’ fingerprints were not submitted to the FBI’s criminal history database. Failure to report the outcome of criminal cases was 79 percent in the Army, 50 percent in the Air Force and 94 percent in the Navy.

The inspector’s report cited several reasons for the lapses — none of them very good excuses.

“In their view, little benefit in solving cases is achieved by providing timely information,” the report said.

Tragically, the military was proven wrong.