The initial toll of 25 victims was later updated to 26 by authorities when medical examiners determined one of the victims was pregnant.
New York City, San Francisco and Philadelphia officials seek to make the US military adhere to rules mandating that service members convicted of crimes during their time in uniform cannot purchase firearms once they are booted from the service.
If the reporting system had been properly maintained, assailant Devin Kelley, a USAF veteran, would have been barred from purchasing weapons after a 2012 military court’s ruling that he was guilty of assaulting a family member. Attorneys representing the cities argued in a lawsuit filed December 26 that the Pentagon hasn’t correctly reported information on veterans who should be banned from buying guns to the national background check system.
“New York City is joining Philadelphia and San Francisco to stand up to the Department of Defense and demand they comply with the law and repair their drastically flawed system,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. “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.”
After Kelley’s conviction, “the Air Force should have sent his fingerprints and final disposition report to the FBI, which should have prevented him from legally buying a gun,” Department of Defense Principal Deputy Inspector General Glenn Fine told the Senate Judiciary Committee December 6. “However, the Air Force did not submit his fingerprints or a final disposition report of his conviction to the FBI for inclusion in its criminal history databases,” Fine said.
The FBI’s national database is relied on by law enforcement officials to help them process gun permit applications. Without an updated system, guns can fall into the wrong hands, lawyers for the cities said in the suit.
About 601 of 2,505 fingerprint cards the Pentagon should have reported to the FBI were not properly submitted, the Pentagon’s Inspector General found in a review published in early December. Kelley’s was one of the roughly 24 percent of cases that fell through the cracks.
“The department continues to work with the services as they review and refine their policies and procedures to ensure qualifying criminal history information is submitted to the FBI,” a Pentagon spokesman told reporters Tuesday. The spokesman said he could not comment on the specific lawsuit.
A bipartisan effort launched by Reps. Dave Reichart (R-WA) and Derek Kilmer (D-WA) on Wednesday afternoon called on Secretary of Defense James Mattis to implement reforms immediately.
“The Texas mass-shooting, like too many other acts of gun violence, was preventable, but the government failed to do the simple paperwork required to keep guns out of the hands of convicted criminals,” Kilmer said in a statement. “Background checks are useless if the databases designed to prevent convicted criminals from getting guns aren’t up to date,” the lawmaker said.
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