AUSTIN, Texas – The United States Vice President Mike Pence said on Wednesday that bureaucratic failures allowed the perpetrator of the mass shooting that left 26 people dead in Texas to legally acquire firearms.
Pence acknowledged that the US Air Force, in which the killer Devin Kelley served, did not report his history of mental illness to the FBI, which would have prevented him from buying the semi-automatic rifle he used to commit the deadliest mass shooting in Texas history on Sunday.
“We will find out why this information was not properly reported in 2012, and we are working with leaders in Congress to ensure this never happens again,” the vice president said outside the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, the scene of the massacre.
Pence also said that Kelley had committed a crime when buying the weapon, adding that “he lied on his application.”
Dressed in a bulletproof vest and armed with a powerful semi-automatic rifle, the gunman opened fire on parishioners inside the church in Sutherland Springs, a small town located 45 kilometers (28 miles) southeast of San Antonio, Texas.
“Three days ago, evil descended on this small town” said the vice president. “Faith is stronger than evil.”
He was joined by members of local and federal law enforcement, the pastor of the affected church and the two neighbors – whom he called “Texas heroes” – who confronted Kelley – one firing at him twice and the other chasing him in his vehicle – after the shooting.
Pence was accompanied to the small Texas town by his wife Karen Pence, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions, US Representatives of Texas Will Hurd and Henry Cuellar and Texas Governor Greg Abbott.
The vice president told reporters that at US President Donald Trump’s direction, the administration was “providing the full measure of federal resources” to relevant state and local authorities, including “over 100 FBI personnel working on the case.”
Pence praised the bravery of the first responders and the residents of the town, and said he and his wife had been inspired by the “community of faith” in Sutherland Springs.
After visiting the scene and receiving first-hand information on the investigation, Pence went to a secondary school in the neighboring city of Floresville, where he met families of the victims and some of the survivors.
On Wednesday, Pence also visited the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, where seven people – five adults and two children – of the 12 injured were hospitalized.