NEW YORK – Three large U.S. cities have filed a federal lawsuit against the Defense Department, saying many service members who are disqualified from gun ownership weren’t reported to the national background check system.
New York City, San Francisco and Philadelphia filed the lawsuit Tuesday in Virginia.
The cities argue the Defense Department failed to report “significant numbers” of disqualifying records to the FBI’s national background check system for gun licensing and sales.
They say that failure allowed a disgraced former Air Force member, Devin Patrick Kelley, to buy a high-powered rifle and kill 25 people and an unborn child on Nov. 5 in a Texas church.
“Initial information indicates that Kelley’s domestic violence offense was not entered into the National Criminal Information Center database by the Holloman Air Force Base Office of Special Investigations,” an Air Force statement issued two days after the shooting said.
The Air Force said that preliminary findings by its inspector general confirmed the proper personnel at Holloman Air Force Base did not report required information to civilian law enforcement in Kelley’s case.
The chief of staff of the Army, Gen. Mark Milley, said that it isn’t just issues within the Air Force.
“It’s not just an Air Force problem, this is a problem across all the services where we have gaps in reporting criminal activity of people in service when they’re convicted or they get a dishonorable discharge, those sorts of things, and getting that over to the appropriate law enforcement agencies,” he added.
Milley said he wasn’t sure exactly how many cases went unreported, but believes it is between 10 and 20 percent.
Local law enforcement officials rely on the FBI’s database to conduct background checks on gun permit applications and to monitor purchases. The lawsuit says it must be up to date.
A Pentagon official says he can’t comment on the lawsuit, but says the department is continuing to work with the U.S. military to refine their policies.