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Lawsuits & Litigation

Three Cities Suing the Pentagon After Sutherland Springs Shooting

— December 28, 2017

Three cities are suing the Pentagon, claiming its “clearly broken” system of background checks enabled a Texas shooting spree last month.

In a recently-launched federal lawsuit, New York, Philadelphia and San Francisco seek to have the Department of Defense “fulfill their long-standing legal obligation to report all service members disqualified from purchasing and possessing firearms to the FBI’s national background check system.”

The attorneys who filed the suit say officials in each of the three cities “regularly rely upon the integrity of the FBI’s background check system” to know when to refuse a firearm sale.

According to The Hill, the case is being brought in response to a November 5th massacre in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Twenty-six people were killed by Devin Kelley, a former Air Force serviceman with a history of violence.

Kelley, writes The Hill, had been court-martialed and sentenced to a year in prison in 2014. He’d been convicted of domestic violence after brutally beating his wife and cracking his stepson’s skull.

The Air Force never reported the court martial and subsequent conviction to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Criminal Justice Information Systems.

First responders on the scene in Sutherland Springs. Imae via AP.

The INCSIS would have passed along a record of the assault and its outcome to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which is utilized by firearms dealers whenever they’re selling a weapon. Had Kelley’s conviction been properly recorded, he should have been prevented from legally obtaining any firearms.

Filed in Virginia, the suit demands an injunction and federal oversight for the Pentagon – ensuring that officials follow their duties to report offenders in the service more diligently.

“Our three-city coalition will right this two-decade wrong,” said lead attorney Ken Taber. “The Executive Branch and Congress have both had their chances to repair this clearly broken system. Now, after twenty years of failure, it’s time for the courts to step in.”

Statements from city officials involved in the suit lend credence to Taber’s claims.

“This failure on behalf of the Department of Defense has led to the loss of innocent lives by putting guns in the hands of criminals and those who wish to cause immeasurable harm,” said New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.

“New York City is joining Philadelphia and San Francisco to stand up to the Department of Defense and demand they comply with the crucial decision whether a license-to-carry applicant should be permitted to carry a firearm.”

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney made a statement as well, saying that the background check system can’t work unless its fed the right information.

“We’re joining in this suit because these records is [sic] absolutely critical to those decisions,” said Kenney. “The background check system only works if it contains the proper records.”

Earlier in December, the DoD inspector general found that every branch of the Armed Forces had failed to pass on conviction records for a significant number of applicants – percentages ranged from 14% in the Air Force to 41% for the Army.


Cities sue after Pentagon failed to report crimes to FBI gun check system

Cities sue Pentagon over gun-check system failures

New York TImes

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