U.S. Senator John Cornyn, R-Texas, visited Sutherland Springs Friday morning to discuss the Fix NICS Act, which was signed into law by President Donald Trump last week.
“Twenty-six people lost their lives and 20 more lives were forever changed,” Cornyn said.
Cornyn introduced the Fix NICS Act after the massacre at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs in November. The law strengthens the criminal background check system and ensures convicted felons and domestic abusers cannot legally purchase a firearm.
“As I was trying to grapple with the magnitude – really the evil we saw that day, I asked myself what I can do as one person to try to make sure that something like this doesn’t happen again,” Cornyn said.
The law was passed as part of the government funding bill.
Cornyn was joined by Pastor Frank Pomeroy and survivors of the church shooting.
The shooter, Devin Kelley, 26, was able to legally purchase firearms because the U.S. Air Force failed to properly notify federal law enforcement agencies of a felony domestic violence conviction. If Kelley’s record had been entered into the National Crime Information Center database, he would not have been able to legally purchase the firearms he did.
The NCIC is one of a few databases used by state and federal law enforcement agencies to expeditiously run criminal background checks and to look for outstanding warrants. The system can quickly provide law enforcement a person’s criminal history with a first and last name, social security number and date of birth.
Kelley would likely have been flagged on the first gun purchase in 2014 had his information been entered into the federal database. Since it was not, none of the four gun dealers who officials said Kelley bought from in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 had any idea of the felony convictions on his record.
Donna King from the Sutherland Springs Community Association said what she remembers from the shooting is how the town came together and felt the outpouring of support from other people.
“Everybody wanted to bring something, whether it was a case of water, Gatorade or power drinks,” she said.
King hopes the Fix NICS Act can encourage that same type of cooperation within state and federal agencies.
“It’s just another opportunity for us to work together,” she said. “We firmly believe in our right to bear arms, but we also believe that it’s not necessary to have 50 to 60 bullets in a gun.”
Pastor Pomeroy announced plans to open up a new church earlier in the week and said the passing of this legislation is symbolic.
“I think that’s one reason why God choreographed this to happen as it did, to show He’s still on the throne,” Pomeroy said.