On Nov. 5, a former airman with a criminal background killed 26 people at a church in the Texas town of Sutherland Springs. The shooter, Devin P. Kelley, was armed with a Ruger AR-15 variant. The Air Force’s failure to alert the FBI to Kelley’s domestic assault convictions had allowed him to legally purchase the weapon and several others after he was booted out of the service in 2014 with a bad-conduct discharge. In 2012, a court-martial sentenced Kelley to 12 months in confinement for brutally beating his wife and toddler step-son. His shooting rampage was the deadliest mass public shooting in Texas history. Kelley died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound after wrecking his car while being chased by two samaritans, one of whom was also armed with a gun.
Kelley is one of numerous veterans who have carried out massacres on American soil since Charles Whitman, a Marine Corps veteran, shot 17 people to death from atop the University of Texas Tower on Aug. 1, 1966, an event generally viewed as the first in a scourge of mass public shootings — defined as “the killing of four or more people in a public place without a connection to drug deals, gang disputes or other underlying criminal motive,” according to The Washington Post — that have rocked the country with increasing frequency and bigger death tolls over the years. As anthropologist Hugh Gusterson noted in The New York Times last year, more than a third of the 43 worst mass killings in the United States between 1984–2016 were perpetrated by veterans, though vets never exceeded 13% of the population during that period.
How do we explain this statistic? And can more be done to mitigate gun violence in America? Adam Linehan, Patrick Baker, Jack Mandaville, and Adam Weinstein enter The Warzone to hash it out.
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