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How Was The Sutherland Springs Shooter Able To Buy Firearms?

Joey Palacios
Texas Public Radio

Texas Public Radio's David Martin Davies spoke with Texas Standard reporter Alain Stephens about how the Sutherland Springs shooter may have been able to obtain the guns he used to kill 26 people on Sunday. The incident is the deadliest mass shooting in Texas history. 

The shooter, David Patrick Kelley, was disqualified from gun ownership due to his history of domestic violence while serving in the Air Force. Still, somehow, he was able to purchase at least two firearms.

What we know so far:

  • An autopsy of the shooter revealed that he was struck by three bullets: two from an armed civilian in the torso and leg, and one self-inflicted shot to the head.
  • The Air Force admitted that the shooter's past domestic violence offenses were not entered into the national background check system, which would have flagged gun dealers about his record. 
  • Officers on the scene found three weapons owned by the shooter: a Ruger AR-556 rifle at the church and two additional handguns — a Glock 9mm and a Ruger .22-caliber — were recovered from the vehicle driven by Devin Patrick Kelley.
  • The shooter escaped from a psychiatric facility in 2012, after threatening superiors and attempting to smuggle weapons on base while stationed in New Mexico.


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Jan Ross Piedad Sakian is TPR’s News Operations Producer. In this role, she develops strategy on collaborative and digital initiatives for the station. Since 2016, Jan Ross has served in a coordinating capacity for TPR’s state and national partners, including The Texas Newsroom.