TortsProf Blog

Editor: Christopher J. Robinette
Southwestern Law School

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

U.S. Air Force Held Primarily Responsible for 2017 Church Shooting

In 2017, a former serviceman killed 26 people and injured over 20 more when he opened fire in a Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.  A federal judge has ruled the U.S. Air Force was 60% responsible based on its failure to submit the shooter's criminal history to the FBI database, allowing him to purchase the weapon he used in the attack.

"The argument in this case was that the government had in its possession, particularly the Air Force, had in its possession information about a conviction for an offense of a service member which they failed to report — carelessly — to federal government authorities so it could be included in the National Crime Information Center database that then could be accessible for background checks at retail," [Timothy] Lytton said. "And that carelessness on the government’s part made them liable for the resulting harms, which were of course the mass shooting.”

Unlike other "high-profile" mass shootings, the Sutherland Springs lawsuit didn't involve a venue that was negligent or a gun store that sold a firearm illegally.

"We don’t have a lot of mass shootings where the problem is that a person who’s currently enlisted in the armed services had a conviction that wasn’t properly reported by the service to the federal government, that’s a sort of unusual fact pattern so I can’t really identify a trend of liability against the federal government in mass shootings," he said.

Texas Public Radio has the story.

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/tortsprof/2021/07/us-air-force-held-primarily-responsible-for-2017-church-shooting.html

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