Sutherland sprongs church shooting justice for victims lawsuit

The U.S. Justice Department Has Appealed the Ruling Awarding Victims and Survivors of Sutherland Springs Mass Shooting for Government Failure Around Brady Background Check System. The Coalition Urges the Government to Drop its Appeal Ahead of the 5-year Observance of the Shooting on November 5th.

Washington, DC, October 6, 2022 – Today, Brady joins about 40 partners in calling on the U.S. Department of Justice to stop delaying justice for the victims and survivors of the 2017 mass shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

In a letter delivered to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, the groups demanded the Justice Department drop its misguided appeal of a federal court ruling, which is stonewalling the victims and survivors of this horrific mass shooting from the justice they deserve. Brady, the leading legal voice in the fight against gun violence for more than 30 years, has supported these plaintiffs and their quest for justice throughout the lawsuits.

Juan “Gunny” Macias was shot that day five to seven times, including in his back, hip, and abdomen. His permanent injuries cause him constant pain, discomfort, and disability. He says:

"A background check should have stopped this gunman. But the government is fighting us — fighting me, a 24-year veteran who survived war zones only to be shot up with an AR-15 in my own church. Believe me, I've survived a lot. But it's been hard to survive this.”

Brady President Kris Brown added:

“It is shameful that Gunny Macias — who earned his nickname for his time as a Marine gunnery sergeant — was able to survive in war zones like Iraq, yet was gunned down while attending church services at home. Worse yet, the country that Gunny fought for is now blocking him and other shooting victims from justice.
“The Brady Background Check system is one of the few tools we have for stopping prohibited purchasers from buying guns. Yet the Sutherland Springs gunman was able to purchase guns despite the government’s prior and specific knowledge of numerous instances of domestic abuse, sexual assault, violence, and even threats of mass gun violence. It is unconscionable that the government continues to undermine the integrity and the importance of our nation’s gun violence prevention laws by appealing this important ruling."

Federal Court Ruled U.S. Air Force Partially Responsible for Sutherland Springs Church Shooting

On November 5, 2017, in the deadliest mass shooting in Texas history, the gunman, a former Air Force member, fired more than 450 rounds at attendees during a church service, injuring 22 and killing 26. In February 2022, a U.S. District Court judge awarded $230 million to the victims, upholding an earlier court decision that the U.S. Air Force was primarily responsible for the shooting because it had failed to report the gunman’s history of violence into the FBI database used by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). A negative report in the database would have prevented the gunman from buying the firearms used in the deadly mass shooting.

“When the Government fails to uphold its explicit obligations within the Brady Background Check system, as it did here, it must take responsibility for the preventable violence and tragedy that ensues,” the letter states. “Refusal to do so not only undermines the integrity and the importance of our nation’s gun violence prevention laws, but it also abandons the Government’s promise to keep communities safe by preventing prohibited persons from purchasing firearms.”

The letter continues, asking the Government to deliver justice before November 5, which will mark five years since the shooting. “In seeking this appeal, the Government is choosing to prolong the suffering that grieving families and injured survivors will endure through gratuitous and drawn-out legal processes. Please withdraw your appeal [and] deliver justice,” it says.

The letter and full list of cosigners is available here.

Brady has one powerful mission — to unite all Americans against gun violence. We work across Congress, the courts, and our communities with over 90 grassroots chapters, bringing together young and old, red and blue, and every shade of color to find common ground in common sense. In the spirit of our namesakes Jim and Sarah Brady, we have fought for over 45 years to take action, not sides, and we will not stop until this epidemic ends. It’s in our hands.


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