Feds To Pay $144M Lawsuit For Fatal NICS Blunder In TX Mass Killing

The Department of Justice announced an agreement to pay $144 million to families and survivors of the horrific mass killing in Sutherland Springs, Texas Church. The settlement is still contingent on court approval, but this ruling may bring finality to the ongoing lawsuits that started in 2018.

First Baptist of Sutherland Springs Mass Killing—

In this post called “Background Checks and Mass Shooters, How Did They Get Their Guns?” I uncovered the ways the suspects of 26 mass killers got the guns used in their crimes. One of those mass killings was this incident at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

How Is The Government Culpable in This Shooting?

The shooter in this tragedy passed a NICS background check when purchasing the rifle he used to kill 26 people. Interestingly, one of victims was an unborn child of a victim who also died. It seems unborn children are humans only if the parents want them, otherwise it's okay to murder them by the millions, but I digress.

Here is an excerpt that from the article mentioned above that explains how the killer got his guns.

“The killer was an Air Force veteran. Police investigated an assault where he fractured his child's skull and assaulted his wife, which resulted in a criminal conviction. He received a bad-conduct discharge from the military. Two years after his release, he passed a NICS background check on two separate occasions to purchase firearms.

One of which, a Ruger AR-15 rifle he used in the mass-killing. His domestic violence conviction was enough to bar him from possessing or purchasing a firearm legally.

However, the Air Force never entered it into the NICS system, and therefore, he passed both background checks. He also lied on the ATF firearm application form 4473, which asks about domestic violence convictions. 

NRA Firearms instructor and church member Steven Willeford used an AR-15 rifle he grabbed from his safe to shoot the killer from a distance. Police believe that the killer was likely targeting more churches. This is because, in addition to his dead body, they found much more ammunition and firearms in the car. Fortunately, he died before he was able to carry out more attacks.

mass shooters and background checks

You can see how we got these numbers and find out exactly how a NICS check isn't the crime deterrent many think it is.

DOJ Appeals 2021 Court Decision—

In February 2021, U.S. District Court Judge Xavier Rodriguez ruled against the DOJ and ordered the government pay 84 families and survivors $230M. In his February decision, Judge Rodriguez said that the government was “60% liable” for the attack because it failed to submit Kelley’s assault conviction during his time in the Air Force to a national database.

Judge Rodriguez went on to say that if the Air Force would have entered the killer's conviction into the NICS system as required, “it is more likely than not that Kelley [the killer] would have been deterred from carrying out the Church shooting“.

I Agree Judge Rodriguez' Decision, But Not With the Reasoning—

As much as I agree with Rodriguez determination that the Air Force has culpability, I disagree with his presumption that it's more likely than not, that the killer wouldn't have obtained a firearm or use another method to kill those people at First Baptist in Sutherland Springs. For one, the killer lied on ATF Form 4473. That is the form everyone must complete when purchasing a gun from a dealer. The form asks a series of questions, one of which asks if the purchaser has any domestic violence convictions. Second, the killer is an evil, violent liar. I don't think it's a stretch to imagine a law prohibiting him from buying a gun would have thwarted him, and wrote this post, Untold Truths About Background Checks explaining more about background checks and their efficacy.

First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas and Errol Warren at The Coming King Sculpture Prayer Gardens. From FBC Facebook

The Most Recent Settlement—

Not surprisingly, the DOJ appealed Rodriguez' ruling, and it seems now entered an agreement on a settlement for $86M less. As mentioned above, a court still needs to approve it, but this may bring to an end the legal battle victims and their family have fought to hold the government accountable for their failure.

The folks at First Baptist Church will forever grieve as others who have experienced such horrific violence. I thought I would wrap up this post by sharing an article about the working power of Jesus Christ. Here is a post about how the brothers and sisters at First Baptist Church have seen God continue to show His love and mercy amid such evil.

What do you think of this ruling? Money can't undo the damage, but is this a fair settlement? Leave us a comment below.

Listen to our interview with Stephen Willeford on the Concealed Carry Podcast.

stephen willeford podcast interview sutherland springs hero

About Matthew Maruster

I follow my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ who is the eternal co-equal Son of God. I currently live in Columbus, Ohio with my wife and daughter. I served in the Marine Corps Infantry. I was a Staff Sergeant and served as a Platoon Sergeant during combat in Iraq. After I was a police officer at a municipal agency in San Diego County. I have a Bachelors's Degree in Criminal Justice from National University. MJ Maruster Defense.

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