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Flags fly at half staff in Ketchikan this week following the Sunday killing of 26 churchgoers in Texas.
The event is tragic to say the least. Mostly, it makes no sense.
What kind of person kills an 18-month-old baby? Murders children? Shoots the elderly? Fires 145 shots in a church filled with families?
A very violent one.
In this incident, signs of the murderer’s potential existed.
Devin Patrick Kelley had been dishonorably discharged from the U.S. Air Force. At his court-martial, he had originally been charged with assault and battery against his wife, aggravated assault against his stepson, four charges involving firearms (two of which involved pointing a loaded firearm at his wife) and two additional charges of pointing an unloaded firearm.
He had struck his stepson on the head and body with a killing force, cracking the child’s skull.
Kelley also was known to possess a fascination for firearms and mass killings, and he had been heard firing weapons at his home a week ago.
Additionally, authorities had cited him for animal cruelty after he was witnessed beating a dog.
The Air Force is investigating why its charges against Kelley never made it to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System. If the information had been in the database, the Air Force acknowledged, it should have prevented Kelley from purchasing guns. He had bought one this year, and one every year for the past three years.
The signs existed. The system failed; in time, the Air Force and the federal government will find out why.
Flags will fly at half staff. Systems will be examined and improved upon.
The debate over gun control will wage.
But at the heart of the matter are angry and frustrating feelings that prompt violence. For each killer, it’s different.
But until feelings, and how communities, states and the nation handle them, do an about face, violence will find its way into the most peaceful places on earth — like a small, quiet church in Texas.