Sessions orders review of background check system for guns

Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks at the Federalist Society 2017 National Lawyers Convention at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, Friday, Nov. 17, 2017, about maintaining and strengthening the rule of law. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday ordered a far-ranging review of the FBI database containing information for use in background checks on prospective gun buyers.

The move comes after the Air Force acknowledged that a man who killed more than two dozen people in a south Texas church this month should have had his name and domestic violence conviction submitted to the database. The failure enabled him to buy weapons that his conviction should have barred.

Sessions directed the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to determine if other government agencies are failing to report information to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. He also wants a report detailing the number of times the agencies investigate and prosecute people for lying on their gun-purchase applications and a closer look at the format and wording of the application itself.

The database “is critically important to protecting the American public from fire-arms related violence,” Sessions wrote in his memo. “It is, however, only as reliable and robust as the information that federal, state, local and tribal government entities make available to it.”

The Pentagon’s inspector general launched a separate review of the Texas gunman, Devin P. Kelley, after the Air Force revealed it had failed to submit his domestic abuse case to the database. Kelley was able to buy four guns despite the conviction. He used a Ruger AR rifle with a 30-round magazine during the Nov. 6 shooting, going from aisle to aisle as he shot parishioners.

Sessions said the revelation was “alarming.” But the Pentagon has long known about failures to give military criminal history information to the FBI.

Sessions ordered the FBI and ATF to work with the Defense Department on its review and to identify other obstacles agencies face in sharing information with the database.

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