San Francisco joined New York and Philadelphia in filing a federal lawsuit Tuesday targeting the U.S. Department of Defense for not reporting disqualified service members to the gun background check system.
The lawsuit alleges that for at least 20 years, the Department allowed service members with convictions and dishonorable discharges to obtain guns by failing to report them to the FBI, the City Attorney’s Office says Tuesday.
“We cannot accept the level of gun violence in our country as ‘just the way it is,'” City Attorney Dennis Herrera says in a statement. “Twenty-six people being murdered at church can never be normal.”
That figure refers to the Nov. 5 massacre at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Tex., when the shooter legally bought an assault rifle despite disqualifying records from the U.S. Air Force. He had been discharged after a 2014 domestic violence conviction involving his wife and child, The Washington Post reported.
Without the military reporting which service members are disqualified from legally owning a gun, the FBI’s national criminal background check system will let more through, the lawsuit says. San Francisco argues that the incomplete data could send seized guns back to those who are not legally allowed to possess a firearm.
A report by the Defense Department’s acting inspector general found earlier this month that 31 percent of required reports in 2015 and 2016 were not submitted.
“The Defense Department’s failure to fulfill its legal duty and accurately report criminal convictions puts innocent Americans at risk,” Herrera says. “It is past time to ensure that we’re doing everything we can to keep guns out of the wrong hands.”
The lawsuit, filed in Virginia Tuesday, calls for a court injunction and judicial intervention to ensure compliance. It also targets the respective secretaries of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and the directors of the Defense Department law enforcement entities responsible for submitting the records.