Three U.S. cities last week sued the Department of Defense and various branches of the military, seeking to compel the organizations to properly report data on service members who are disqualified from purchasing and possessing firearms. The suit comes in the wake of the Nov. 5, 2017 mass shooting at a Sutherland Springs, Texas church, in which former Air Force member Devin Kelley killed 26 people, despite having been court-martialed for two counts of domestic violence and receiving a Bad Conduct Discharge from the Air Force, which should have disqualified him from buying or possessing guns.
Pillsbury partner Kenneth Taber, who is providing pro bono representation to the plaintiff cities—New York, San Francisco and Philadelphia—recently discussed the case on CNN.
“It turns out that the Kelley case is just the tip of the iceberg,” Taber tells anchor Ana Cabrera. “We are asking the court … to come in and take charge and supervise this situation … so that the Defense Department can’t, as they have for 20 years, ignore the problem.”
While the Department of Justice announced it would investigate the Department of Defense’s stunning lapses in reporting data on individuals who should be barred from owning guns following the Sutherland Springs shooting, Taber tells Cabrera that a judicial mandate will be the only way to effect real change.
“The Attorney General doesn’t actually have any authority over the Defense Department—they are co-equal branches of government,” he said. “The courts, however, have the ability to come in and say ‘You must fix this.’”