Dec. 26 (UPI) -- Three cities -- New York City, San Francisco and Philadelphia -- sued the U.S. Department of Defense on Tuesday over what they say are failures in reporting information to the federal database on gun licensing and sales.
The cities filed a lawsuit in federal court in Virginia, claiming the Pentagon didn't report significant numbers of disqualifying records to the FBI's national background check system, called the National Crime Information Center.
The lawsuit notes that Devin Kelley, a former Air Force member convicted of domestic assault, was allowed to buy a high-powered rifle and shoot 26 people to death Nov. 5 in a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
"This failure on behalf of the Department of Defense has led to the loss of innocent lives by putting guns in the hands of criminals and those who wish to cause immeasurable harm," New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a written statement.
De Blasio said the cities want the Defense Department to comply with the law and repair their "drastically flawed system."
Congress requires the different branches of the military to "regularly report specified information regarding the criminal history of members of the military services for inclusion in the NCIC database."
But, the suit says, that is not happening.
"DoD's own inspector general's reports clearly document, however, that, as far back as 1997, and continuing through the present, Defendants and their predecessors have systematically and knowingly failed to fulfill that statutory obligation, with the Kelley case just the latest manifestation of that systemic failure," the suit states.
"This is a problem across all the services where we have gaps in reporting criminal activity of people in service," U.S. Army chief of staff Gen. Mark A. Milley said.
The lawsuit said the Justice Department doesn't have the authority to enforce the background checks.
"While Attorney General [Jeff] Sessions has now launched an investigation of this issue, the problem here is not with the attorney general," the suit says. "His predecessors long ago imposed the necessary legal obligations on these defendants. The problem here is that defendants have not met, and are still not meeting, their long-standing legal obligations. And the attorney general - a coordinate member of the Executive Branch -- lacks the power to remedy defendants' noncompliance."