How did a disgraced airman, convicted by court-martial of assaulting his wife and child, get access to the weapons he used Nov. 5 to commit the deadliest mass shooting in an American house of worship? The short answer seems to be: not legally. But the case of Devin Patrick Kelley, who murdered 26 parishioners before dying of a gunshot in his flipped car, illuminates a confusing tangle of federal regulations that are supposed to keep guns out of domestic abusers’ hands.
I was about 16, helping out with a beach demonstration of operator gadgets at the Navy UDT/SEAL Museum in South Florida, when a SEAL vet gave me and my friends a chance to shoot a full-automatic weapon for the first time: blank rounds from a belt-fed M-60. Each of us stepped up, grunted under the bulk of the machine gun, felt the upward jerk of the muzzle as it burped hot anger toward the surf, and said to ourselves: My God, this rocks.