A young man with a criminal record, tried in military court for domestic violence, with an apparent personality disorder and denied a license to carry weapons, opened fire on Sunday morning in a church in Texas with a semiautomatic rifle.
In his vehicle, with which he tried to flee after leaving 26 dead and 20 wounded in a Church temple, he carried other weapons. With one of them he shot himself.
The US president, however, believes that the tragedy of Sutherland Springs, a tiny town 50 kilometers from San Antonio, has nothing to do with access to weapons or gun control.
“This is a mental health problem,” said Donald Trump from Japan, where he is visiting during his Asian tour. “It is not a weapons issue,” he added before recalling that “luckily, there was another person firing at him” and that prevented a tragedy “much worse”. The president was referring to a neighbor who shot the attacker when he left the church, after shooting the congregation.
In a way, the US president places access to weapons not as the problem of the tragedies that have shaken the US. every so often -and with more frequency and virulence in recent years- but as the way to avoid them.
It is a common position among gun defenders to prevent any restriction on access to firearms and that is repeated after each massacre: “If there had been more armed people, they would have killed the attacker” is the mantra, which the president now makes his own.
Although in the past, years before launching his candidacy for the presidency, he advocated restricting access to certain deadly weapons, in the election, he ran as the great defender of the Second Amendment -the constitutional article that establishes the right to have weapons- and had the support of the powerful National Rifle Association.
The debate on the regulation of weapons will be heated again this time, as has happened after each similar tragedy. This occurs just a month after the Las Vegas incident, with 58 dead and some 500 wounded, is the fifth in number of victims in US history and the worst that Texas has experienced, one of the states with the longest tradition of access to weapons. The experience of previous occasions and the reaction of the president suggest that, again, nothing will change.
Meanwhile, questions of the killing get answered. Its author was Devin Kelley, a young man of 26 years old, raised in New Braunfels, about fifty minutes by car from Sutherland Springs. His high school classmates remember him as “the weird one in the class”.
While serving at an air force base in New Mexico, he was tried in military court for domestic violence against his wife and son. He was demoted, was sentenced to one year of confinement and left the army in 2014. He remarried but things did not seem to be much better. Last summer he had a job as a night security guard at an amusement park and was fired because “it did not fit.” His activity on social networks showed an atheistic fervor and recently he hung a photo of the rifle with which he allegedly perpetrated the killing.
Official begin to clear the unknowns. “This was not for racial reasons, nor for religious beliefs,” Freeman Martin of the Texas Department of Public Safety said yesterday. “There was a domestic problem with his in-laws.”
Apparently, Kelley sent “threatening messages” to his mother-in-law, who lived near the church where the tragedy occurred. Her mother-in-law had come several times to the temple in Sutherland Springs, but she was not in it at eleven o’clock on Sunday, when Kelley appeared dressed in black, wearing military clothes, a bulletproof vest and a rifle. Almost all the members of the congregation were killed or wounded in the attack.
One of the big issues of the case is to understand how Kelley was armed to the teeth. “For all the data we have, he should not have had access to weapons, so how did this happen?” Greg Abbott, governor of Texas, asked yesterday in an interview on CNN. Apparently, Kelley had been denied a permit to carry weapons. This could have been a consequence of his military judgment and his departure from the Army. If his discharge had been “dishonorable”, something that was not clear yesterday, he would not have the right to carry arms. However, he bought a semiautomatic rifle for military use in April of last year at a San Antonio store. He checked in the box that he had no criminal record that prevented the purchase and said his address was in Colorado.