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Cities sue Defense Department over background-check failures

by Kiley Crossland
Posted 12/27/17, 11:06 am

Three large U.S. cities filed a federal lawsuit on Tuesday against the Department of Defense, alleging the U.S. military failed to report “significant numbers” of service members disqualified from gun ownership to the FBI’s national background check system. New York City, San Francisco, and Philadelphia said in the suit that the error led to the November massacre of 26 people at a Texas church. The killer, Devin P. Kelley, was a former member of the U.S. Air Force and should not have been allowed to purchase a gun due to an assault conviction. Local law enforcement officials use the FBI’s system to perform background checks for gun permit applications and purchases. After the shooting, Air Force leaders acknowledged a failure to alert the FBI to Kelley’s criminal history, and said they found “several dozen” other reporting omissions. They said the mistakes were a failure of training and compliance, not policies and procedures. U.S. Army leaders said they found similar gaps in their reporting. Late last month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered an intensive review of the FBI database. A Pentagon spokesman on Tuesday said the department is working with the various branches of the military as they “review and refine their policies and procedures to ensure qualifying criminal history information is submitted to the FBI.” The cities’ lawsuit seeks an injunction and judicial oversight to ensure the department’s compliance.

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Kiley Crossland

Kiley is a WORLD Digital assistant editor and reports on marriage, family, and sexuality.

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  • Brendan Bossard's picture
    Brendan Bossard
    Posted: Wed, 12/27/2017 01:39 pm

    It will be interesting to see how much of this problem has to do with inter-agency rivalry.  It seems simple in principle to develop a unified database, but history shows that unity only becomes a priority after a crisis.  If only we would learn from history.