SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 27, 2017 — City Attorney Dennis Herrera announced yesterday that San Francisco, New York, and Philadelphia filed a federal lawsuit in the morning against the Department of Defense for failing to fully comply with its legal obligations to report information to the national criminal background check system for gun sales. Herrera released the following statement:
“We cannot accept the level of gun violence in our country as ‘just the way it is.’ Twenty-six people being murdered at church can never be normal.
Patriotic Americans did not fight and die on foreign battlefields for our freedom just so we could be gunned down in our schools, our theaters and our churches because it’s too easy for people who shouldn’t have guns to get them.
The national criminal background check system is the backbone of common-sense gun regulations. The Defense Department’s failure to fulfill its legal duty and accurately report criminal convictions puts innocent Americans at risk. It is past time to ensure that we’re doing everything we can to keep guns out of the wrong hands.”
The military is required to provide information on dishonorable discharges and criminal convictions that prevent individuals from legally buying or possessing guns to the FBI’s national criminal background check system. The system is used by gun dealers to determine if an individually is legally allowed to purchase a firearm. Law enforcement also uses the system when processing applications for permits to possess or carry guns and to ensure that seized guns are not returned to anyone prohibited from owning them.
The Defense Department has failed to properly report convictions and dishonorable discharges for at least two decades.
The Air Force’s documented failure to report disqualifying records allowed the perpetrator of November’s church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, to pass a background check, buy an assault rifle, and murder 26 innocent people there.
Earlier this month the department’s acting inspector general released a report, detailing the defendants’ ongoing non-compliance with their reporting obligations. Across all the service branches, the report indicated, fully 31 percent of all final disposition reports were never provided to the FBI during the period from Jan. 1, 2015 to Dec. 31, 2016.
The lawsuit seeks a court injunction and judicial oversight to ensure ongoing compliance with the Defense Department’s obligations to submit records to the FBI for inclusion in the background check system.
The lawsuit was filed by San Francisco, New York, and Philadelphia in coordination with the law firm Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, which worked with Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence to develop the case.
The lawsuit was brought against the Department of Defense, the Army, Navy and Air Force, the secretary of defense, the secretaries of the Army, Navy, and Air Force, and the directors of the Defense Department law enforcement entities charged with submitting these records. It was filed in U.S. District Court in Virginia, where the Department of Defense is headquartered.
The case is: The City of New York v. The United States Department of Defense, et al., filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. Additional documentation from the case is available on the City Attorney’s website at: sfcityattorney.org