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The Department of Justice is getting ready to appeal a federal judge’s decision that the USAF bears some responsibility for the ability of the shooter to legally purchase firearms. From USA Today:
On Nov. 5, 2017, Devin Patrick Kelley fired more than 450 rounds at First Baptist Church using guns he purchased from licensed firearms dealers. He also fatally shot himself.
Kelley served about five years with the Air Force and was discharged in 2014 after he was convicted of assaulting his wife and stepson. That conviction meant Kelley was legally barred from purchasing or possessing a firearm.
But the Air Force failed to report the conviction to an FBI database that tracks criminal history. That means Kelley wasn’t flagged when firearm retailers ran background checks. Instead, he was able to buy four firearms from licensed federal dealers over the course of several years and used three in the shooting.
A subsequent investigation by the Department of Defense inspector general found the Air Force had four opportunities to submit Kelley’s fingerprints to the FBI and two opportunities to submit a final report but did not.
A federal judge in 2021 ruled the Air Force is “60% responsible” for the shooting. Last year, after a second trial, the judge said the branch must pay more than $230 million in damages to survivors and victims’ families. This summer, the DOJ filed an appeal to overturn the rulings.
From an NBC article:
It also did not warn others of a pattern of behavior that led to him being banned from all U.S. military bases. The Air Force was aware of death threats he made against his family, military security forces, police officers and members of his squadron, court records show.
At the first trial:
At the first trial, the Justice Department argued background checks would not have stopped the shooting because Kelley could have obtained a firearm through other means.
On appeal, the Justice Department does not explicitly argue that submitting Kelley’s criminal records to the FBI would not have made a difference, said Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research who testified during trial.
Rather, the department argues the Texas court used the wrong legal standard for assessing the duty of the federal government to prevent harm. “The United States is not liable for Kelley’s actions, and is certainly not more responsible for those acts than the murderer himself,” the brief said.
There are individuals that should not possess anything sharper than a crayon, to include a firearm. You cannot prevent everyone from committing a crime once they have formed the intent to commit a crime. That being said, there is a database available for gun dealers to prevent the sale of a firearm to convicted felons. The NCIC and NCIS database only works if courts send the FBI conviction reports to enter those individuals in the database.
I’m interested in the settlements that were reached that may imply a bias on who the DOJ will agree with on a settlement. The perception of justice, or injustice depending upon who the victims are, damages the DOJ.
In 2021, the Justice Department reached an $88 million settlement with victims’ families and survivors of the 2015 shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, over claims the agency was negligent in failing to prohibit the sale of the firearm used in the massacre.
The following year, the U.S. agreed to pay $127.5 million to the families affected by the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, over claims the FBI failed to stop the gunman despite receiving information he intended to cause violence.