Marines Hope to Prevent Mass Shootings by Stressing FBI Reporting

Pastor Frank Pomeroy hugs his wife Sherri near his First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs on November 6, 2017 in Sutherland Springs, Texas. (Scott Olson/Getty Images) -- Getty Images
Pastor Frank Pomeroy hugs his wife Sherri near his First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs on November 6, 2017 in Sutherland Springs, Texas. (Scott Olson/Getty Images) -- Getty Images

The Marine Corps recently put out a service-wide message to ensure that commanders are reporting "criminal justice information" to the FBI on Marines prohibited from owning personal firearms in an attempt to prevent future violent crimes.

The Nov. 12 Marine administrative message cites the November 2017 mass shooting in a Texas church, saying it could have been prevented if Air Force officials had reported former airman Devin Patrick's 2012 conviction for beating his wife and infant stepson to the FBI as required.

"[The] investigation following the tragic mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas on 5 November 2017 revealed that the suspect (a former service member) had a criminal history which prohibited his receipt and possession of firearms, but was not properly reported to the FBI," the message states. "As a result, the suspect was able to pass a background check and purchase the weapons used in the crime. This tragedy underscores the vital public safety purpose behind Marine Corps efforts to fully and accurately report [criminal justice information] to the FBI via a servicing Law Enforcement Agency."

Federal law prohibits the possession of firearms or ammunition by individuals who have been subject to command disciplinary proceedings such as certain categories of non-judicial punishment and some administrative separation proceedings and courts-martial, the message states.

The Marine Corps hopes to minimize the potential for similar tragedies in the future by educating commanders and Marines about the "impact of military justice proceedings on receipt and possession of firearms and corresponding CJI reporting requirements" and by providing "oversight at the installation and headquarters level across the Marine Corps to facilitate complete and accurate reporting," the message states.

"Commanders are ultimately responsible for the reporting of all CJI to the FBI," the message states.

Marine Corps officials said in the message that the Gun Control Act prohibits possession of a firearm or ammunition by a person who meets any of the following conditions:

  • Has been convicted at a general court-martial of any offense punishable by more than one year of confinement, regardless of the amount of confinement actually awarded or imposed
  • Is a fugitive from justice
  • Is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance
  • Is found incompetent to stand trial or found not guilty by reason of lack of mental responsibility at trial by special or general court-martial
  • Has received either a dishonorable discharge or dismissal, for officers, at a general court-martial
  • Is subject to a civilian court-issued restraining order
  • Has been convicted at a special or general court-martial or in a civilian court of a crime of domestic violence.

The message directs commands to "develop and provide training at the Commander's Course, Sergeants Major Symposium, Staff Judge Advocate Course, Legal Officer/Legal Chief Course, and other resident and/or distance education courses on the reporting requirements for [criminal justice information]."

The message also issues guidance to make updates to military police training at military occupational specialty schools to ensure entry-level training includes criminal justice information reporting requirements.

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.

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