On multiple occasions, Devin P. Kelley beat his wife and young stepson so badly that the child suffered a life-threatening subdural hematoma between his skull and brain, one of the deadliest head injuries.
For crimes that were never in question — Kelley confessed to the domestic abuse — the military court-martialed him in 2014 and slapped him on the wrist with a one-year sentence.
This travesty of justice can only happen in a society that doesn’t take domestic violence seriously enough — and now the miscalculation has claimed many more innocent victims. In the aftermath of the deadliest church shooting in the nation, it’s not hard to see that the abuse of those closest to Kelley and most vulnerable was but a building block in the making of a mass killer.
As if the lax handling of that case weren’t troubling enough, the Air Force — which gave Kelley a “bad conduct” discharge — failed to follow policy and alert federal law enforcement about his record of violence. He wasn’t entered into the National Criminal Information Center database, enabling him to easily and legally purchase the firearms with which he killed 26 worshipers and injured others on Sunday.
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This is a sick country.
The virus of violence has taken hold and shooting deaths have become so commonplace that we can’t see our way out of the cycle of shock, perfunctory offers of thoughts and prayers, and no meaningful action.
Unless, that is, the perpetrator is foreign and of color, and particularly if he claims devotion to Islam.
Then, we’re full of righteous indignation and calls to action.
The cycle spins like this: Shock, clocking in thoughts and prayers coupled with immediate condemnation, endless political posturing about liberal immigration laws that don’t exist — and threats to Congress that they either legislate or executive orders will be issued by the autocrat in charge.
We come up with travel bans, “extreme, extreme vetting” of scapegoat immigrants, and instruct Congress to cancel immigration programs that become instantly suspect and damnable. The innocent pay for the sins of the guilty.
All the while, the gun lobby gets away with being accountable for nothing.
They pay well for this right.
The NRA gave candidate Donald Trump close to a million-dollar donation. In the aftermath of another church shooting, President Trump peddles the bogus “good guy with a gun” argument in the Texas atrocity.
Look at the heroes armed with an AR-15 rifle who shot at Kelley, gave chase, and according to Trump, saved the day from “hundreds more” killings. The president doesn’t even stop to consider the scenario that there could’ve been a rifle-carrying hero killed by responding police who might have thought him a suspect.
No, he right away sells the argument that arming ourselves, to the benefit of the NRA, is our only solution.
He’s not alone. Political minions like Gov. Rick Scott follow right along, in step with members of Congress who’ve received top donations from the NRA, led by Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. All come up with the same old empty script every time they’re forced to respond to a mass shooting, despite a clear correlation between the proliferation of guns and mass killings.
No, there won’t be any extreme vetting of gun owners, and even asking the question is treated as an impropriety by pray-happy Republicans.
As for the military, it will only experience momentary embarrassment for its failures. Only the media holds them accountable. No one in charge is calling for any removals, punishment, or reform to minimize the possibility that men who’ve enlisted in service to the country don’t morph into monsters. No one is calling attention to the prosecution of what amounts to two serious felonies that ends in a lame sentence because domestic abuse gets no respect in a macho-man world.
In the world by which the rest of us are judged, Kelley might have done real time and been very far away from Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church, where he gunned down three generations of one family, including an unborn baby and a 1-year-old.
Or maybe not. Maybe in a criminal court he also might have gotten away with his criminal behavior.
This is a sick country.
Thoughts and prayers aren’t going to heal us or fix what’s wrong.
The culture of worshiping guns nurtures violence — and all who do nothing and offer nothing but words, mass shooting after mass shooting, are enablers.
This is not who we are, you might proudly say.
But it’s exactly what we’ve become.