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Feds Claim Protection from Sutherland Springs Liability Under the Brady Act

Feds Claim Protection from Sutherland Springs Liability Under the Brady Act

Feds Claim Protection from Sutherland Springs Liability Under the Brady Act 150 150 CMZ Law Lufkin/Houston

The Federal government has filed a motion with the intent to dismiss several lawsuits filed against the United States Air Force by victims of the Sutherland Springs massacre. It is claiming that a law that was intended to prevent gun violence also shields them from any liability.

What Happened?

On Nov. 5, 2017, 26-year-old, Devin Patrick Kelley perpetrated the deadliest mass shooting in Texas and the fifth deadliest in the United States. It was also not surprisingly, the deadliest shooting in an American place of worship in the modern era. He opened fire inside and around the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, killing 26 people and injured 20 others.

Failure to Record

Kelley, a former member of the United States Air Force, had been prohibited from purchasing or possessing any firearms due to a previous domestic violence conviction in a court-martial. However, the Air Force never filed the conviction in the FBI National Crime Information Center Database. The database serves as a tool to help the National Instant Check System to flag any prohibited purchases.

At least five lawsuits have been filed and consolidated in San Antonio federal court concerning the shooting. The suits claim that the Air Force should be held liable for its failure to report Kelley’s domestic violence conviction into the database. He had been kicked out of the military in 2014, having spent a year prior behind bars for part of a 2012 plea deal surrounding the beating of his then-wife and stepson.

The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act

The plaintiffs assert that Kelley would have been unable to purchase any firearms, such as the ones he bought between 2012 and 2014, and the one he used during the attack, had his conviction been in the system. The lawsuits reference the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act.

The government has cited a number of cases concerning the Act, claiming that the laws they reference should shield Air Force personnel from any bureaucratic mishaps. Lawyers for the Justice Department, which is currently defending the Air Force, has expressed that statutory immunity shield the United States from any liability to the plaintiffs in this case. “The federal statute on which the plaintiffs primarily base their claims (the Brady Act) expressly provides that no liability for damages may be imposed on employees of the federal government to prevent the sale of a firearm to a person prohibited by law from receiving it,” they wrote.

Watching the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence

It should be interesting to watch how this plays out, as the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence had no comment on this case, though it filed a brief in 2015 arguing against the government’s shield claim in the case of Charleston, S.C. church shooter and white supremacist, Dylann Roof. Roof shot and killed nine African-American worshippers.