Three Cities Sue DoD over Gun Database Reporting

First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs

By Debbie Gregory.

Three cities have filed suit against the Pentagon for lapses that allowed a mass shooter in Texas to buy a gun, even though he carried a conviction in military court that should have barred his purchase.

Air Force veteran Devin P. Kelley murdered 25 people and an unborn child at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas in November. The former logistics specialist had been court-martialed in 2012 and was convicted of two counts of domestic violence against his wife and their child. Kelley was sentenced to 12 months confinement and received a bad conduct discharge in 2014.

In the complaint filed in the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., the three cities – New York, San Francisco and Philadelphia, allege that the defendants, which include the military branches and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, have failed to properly submit fingerprint cards, as well as information about the results of a criminal proceeding, to the FBI database if troops are charged with or convicted of certain violent crimes, including domestic violence and child abuse.

According to a report by the Department of Defense Inspector General, the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps did not submit fingerprint cards to the FBI for 24% of the 2,502 convictions handed down in courts-martial in 2015 and 2016. The branches also neglected to submit final disposition reports in 31% of the cases.

Had the Air Force reported Kelley’s criminal record to the FBI, he wouldn’t have been able to legally purchase the gun he used to conduct the mass shooting.

According to the complaint, ““No new laws are required to achieve that goal. Instead, this Court need only grant Plaintiffs’ request to compel Defendants to diligently implement, and consistently apply, the unambiguous laws that have been on the books for decades.”

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Military Connection: Veteran Bill Vetoed in NY: By Debbie Gregory

NY GovernorNew York Governor Andrew Cuomo recently vetoed legislation that would have authorized state and municipal pension credits for peacetime military service. The killing of the bill came just before Veterans Day and sparked a fair amount of criticism of the governor.

The legislation was authored by NY State-Senator William Larkin, who is a World War II combat Veteran. If approved, the bill would have amended current NY state law that provides up to three year’s credit toward public employee pensions for military service during hostilities. Veterans would have to pay three percent of their compensation during those military years to the retirement system.

In his veto message, Cuomo claimed that if he had enacted the bill, the state’s local governments would incur $57 million in near-term obligations while ignoring recently enacted pension reforms. The measure would also apply to every past member of the armed forces who is a member of any public employees’ retirement system. Cuomo also noted that the state associations of counties and mayors and the New York City mayor’s office all voiced opposition.

“If enacted, this bill would run roughshod over systemic reforms carefully negotiated with the Legislature to avoid saddling local property taxpayers with additional, unmanageable burdens,” Cuomo wrote.

The NY State Assembly passed the bill 133-1 on the last day of the legislative session back in June.

Assembly sponsors said the U.S. now depends on a volunteer military, and to encourage citizens to join, the state needs to recognize all Veterans by giving them pension access.

Many military and Veteran advocates were extremely disappointed by the veto. However, Cuomo did sign other bills that benefit Veterans. One new law is designed to increase the property tax exemption for Veterans from $5,000 to $7,500 of assessed value. Another new law provides a state income-tax check-off to donate to a homeless Veterans assistance fund.

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Military Connection: Veteran Bill Vetoed in NY: By Debbie Gregory