Flags mark evidence on the lawn of the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, Monday, Nov. 6, 2017, a day after over 20 people died in a mass shooting Sunday. (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

Lawsuit: Government negligent in Texas church massacre

DALLAS (AP) — A family that lost several relatives during a mass shooting at a Texas church says the federal government was negligent by failing to report the gunman's criminal information to a national database, according to a lawsuit filed this week.

The suit, filed in federal court in San Antonio, said that even though gunman Devin Patrick Kelley was criminally convicted while in the Air Force the military failed to enter the information into a database used to conduct background checks of gun buyers.

The error, according to the lawsuit, allowed Kelley to buy the assault-style rifle he used during the November shooting in Sutherland Springs that killed more than two dozen people. The Holcombe family suffered about a third of those deaths.

"We think this entire tragedy could have been avoided," said family's attorney Rob Ammons in an interview Friday (June 7). He said an unborn child was among the Holcombe family members killed.

"The Air Force didn't do its job," he said.

An Air Force spokeswoman declined comment.

The litigation said the Air Force acted recklessly and carelessly in not reporting Kelley's criminal information to a federal database.

The federal suit was filed on behalf of Joe and Claryce Holcombe. The lawsuit said their son, John Bryan Holcombe, was murdered while walking to the pulpit at the church.

It is difficult to sue the federal government under a principle called sovereign immunity. The lawsuit filed over the Texas shooting cited The Federal Tort Claims Act, which allows such suits in certain circumstances.

The litigation is one of several lawsuits that have been filed following high-profile mass shootings that have garnered national attention and stirred debate.

Some of the surviving victims of a massacre at an Orlando nightclub were filing a lawsuit in federal court Thursday, saying authorities and city did not to try to stop the shooter.

Antonio Romanucci, a Chicago attorney, said there has been an uptick in the amount of litigation regarding mass shootings. When people see inaction on gun regulations at the federal level, he said, civil lawsuits can be an option for victims to pursue change and justice.

"I think litigation plays a very important role in these cases," he said.

(Ryan Tarinelli writes for The Associated Press)


  1. Litigation can be effective AFTER a shooting takes place. The area where government is failing the most, however, is BEFORE the shooting, on the side of prevention.

  2. What a relief! The gun manufacturers are safe. Pity about the American public.

  3. “We think this could have been avoided”…
    I agree that the Air Force didn’t do its job by entering this guy into the database. But to assume that that alone would of prevented this tragedy is misguided. Someone who wants to harm others is going to find s way. If he doesn’t use the AR; he uses a relative’s legally purchased rifle or shotgun.
    We are quick to look for places to “place blame”; especially where the potential for financial gain exists. What we need to do is look at the societal norms that allowed someone to be okay with shooting up a church and murdering people.

  4. Let’s sue the auto makers too. Then you can go after the drug cartels.

  5. No, simply no – your is a knee-jerk reaction and indicates you did not actually read the reason for the law:


    The American public can still sue for defective products, actual criminal behavior on the part of a firearm manufacturer, and the like – what can’t happen is frivolous expensive lawsuits solely intended to harass and still lawful conduct.

  6. LOL at BobbyJo Arnzen, who is all knee-jerk, all the time (as well as being that without the “knee-“).

    No, BobbyJo, the lawsuits aren’t frivolous. It’s time you stopped sucking the diseased spout of Washington DC as a gun lobbyist; your unremarkable career there is over now. You’re left with sores all over your mouth from it, and you’ve also wrecked your knees from being on them all the time. Hell of a way to retire you’ve got, but then, you are getting what you deserve.

  7. Nah, better to sue the major religions, for false advertising.


  8. “What we need to do is look at the societal norms that allowed someone to be okay with shooting up a church and murdering people”

    What “societal norm” allows someone to murder people in a church??? The “societal norm” is that a person does not murder people in a church. Evidently, the shooter was immune to the influence of that particular “societal norm”,

  9. Your simplistic linear thought process stops at the point where you feel it is appropriate. Guns are tools. The problem is with the actor, not the tool. But it’s easier to blame a company than look at the individual and the evil that they do. THEN, we’d have to start judging people and their lack of a moral compass.

  10. I think that we agree; although I probably wasn’t clear. The norm should be that we don’t kill one another. Although, I think there are some that don’t follow this by choice or mental instability.

  11. Re: “What we need to do is look at the societal norms that allowed someone to be okay with shooting up a church and murdering people.” 

    Please provide a list of some Americans — who aren’t criminals — who consider it “normal” to “shoot up a church and murder people.” Once you’ve done that … and have furthermore established that their thinking is that of the majority of Americans … then, and ONLY then, can you logically call it a “societal norm.” 

    Otherwise, it looks as though you’re making things up. 

  12. As long as it is a societal norm that anyone whatsoever can own any gun whatsoever in any quantities whatsoever he or she chooses, without regulation, oversight, or anything remotely approaching common sense, these things will continue to happen.

    We are the only western country without meaningful gun control. We are the only western country where this sort of thing happens on a regular basis.

  13. Congress passed a law that says they are not responsible.

    Congress is the problem.

  14. Automakers have been sued regularly for safety problems. Autos are designed to take you from one place to another. Guns are desgned to kill and maim.

    The biggest drug cartels are Perdue and other pharma companies. They rank in immorality right next to Escobar. And, fortunately they are being sued. The execs should be jailed….but won’t be because they’re not poor and brown.


    You’ll note Pharma companies are today selling Oxycontin in developing countries using the same lies they used in the US.

  15. Time to sue your mental health care provider for malpractice.

  16. Guns are in the hands of people who have no legitimate and rightful business having them. Which includes in this matter a person with a long well documented criminal history of domestic violence.

    The NRA supports measures to make records of law abiding gun purchases indistinguishable from gun smuggling. They support irresponsible ownership of guns and depend on creating panic to spur gun sales.

  17. “If he doesn’t use the AR; he uses a relative’s legally purchased rifle or shotgun.”

    He would have killed or injured far fewer people in a short period of time.

  18. No, actually Michael Bloomberg, whose February 9, 2018, net worth of $50.8 billion,making him the 7th-richest person in the United States and the 10th richest person in the world, is the problem.

    As the major domo of a large number of “anti-gun” front organizations with few members, he funded a series of groundless lawsuits against distributors, manufacturers, and retailers of firearms.

    This was his backup plan to getting actual support by real citizens for his hare-brained gun control schemes.

    Congress wisely tied his hands with the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.


    Suits may still be brought against a transferor convicted under section 924(h) of title 18, United States Code, or a comparable or identical State felony law, by a party directly harmed by the conduct of which the transferee is so convicted;

    against a seller for negligent entrustment or negligence per se;

    against a manufacturer or seller of a qualified product who knowingly violated a State or Federal statute applicable to the sale or marketing of the product, and the violation was a proximate cause of the harm for which relief is sought;

    against a manufacturer or seller who aided, abetted, or conspired with any other person to sell or otherwise dispose of a qualified product, knowing, or having reasonable cause to believe, that the actual buyer of the qualified product was prohibited from possessing or receiving a firearm or ammunition under subsection (g) or (n) of section 922 of title 18, United States Code;

    for breach of contract or warranty in connection with the purchase of the product;

    for death, physical injuries or property damage resulting directly from a defect in design or manufacture of the product, when used as intended or in a reasonably foreseeable manner, except that where the discharge of the product was caused by a volitional act that constituted a criminal offense, then such act shall be considered the sole proximate cause of any resulting death, personal injuries or property damage.

    In short, suits CAN still be pursued for non-frivolous reasons.

  19. I particularly enjoyed your on-line comments after the Santa Fe, Texas, school shooting in May listing shootings involving so-called “AR-15” firearms, which had zero follow up when it turned out the perpetrator used a revolver and a shotgun.

  20. The NRA supports and in fact proposed the National Firearms checking system.

    Your favorite President, Barack Obama, over his eight years in office directed his law enforcement to disregard attempts by prohibited persons to buy guns who were detected by that national background check, which meant that thousands of potential felons walked.

  21. A magazine-fed pump action shotgun would be a much much better choice for this purpose.

    Fortunately lunatics don’t thing rationally, as some of the comments on the article demonstrate.

  22. Gosh, it must failing BEFORE speeding, drug use, theft, prostitution, and on and on.

  23. If the shooter wore glasses, sue the eyeglass manufacturer.

  24. Guns are designed to fire projectiles where pointed at high speed.

    Killing and maiming involves an operator.

  25. Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe he uses a truck and runs over 25 people.

  26. Good one. You must be having an off day.

  27. Guns are made to kill animals for food or for self defense of personal property. Used for other purposes becomes a law enforcement issue.

  28. Aren’t you the guy championing lgbtqxyz rights? Trying to change the norm? I guess it’s up to you to decide what norms are norm.
    There are millions of responsible gun owners in this country that follow the rules and harm no one-yet you wish to infringe upon their rights.
    FYI- I do not want to be like any other western country.

  29. The American public is fine. They had the opportunity to kill food and defend themselves today.

  30. I agree with you to a point. There are guns in the hands of people that should not have them for criminal reasons.
    PLEASE- go into the inner cities of America and get them! Law abiding citizens everywhere will make you king.
    By your logic, we should also confiscate cars because the latest and greatest in our inner cities it to steal cars and play grand theft auto driving 100 miles an hour going through red lights and t-boning innocents.

  31. Yeah right! Why worry about Sandy Hook and all the other massacres? I’m sure the grieving parents who buried their children and all the traumatised classmates who saw their friends die are all just fine. After all, they have their Second Amendment rights to comfort them in their grief.

  32. Tragic – I agree. Let me know when you are going to ban automobiles. More people die each year in car accidents.
    Let me know when you’re going to address the “breakdown” of society.
    Let’s talk about mental health. Let’s talj about people not knowing right from wrong. Let’s talk about universalism. Let’s talk about what this page talks about continuously; the lack of belief in God and a judgement in the afterlife.

  33. And let’s talk about why American gun deaths are so out of line with other high income countries.
    They all have careless drivers.
    They all have issues with mental health.
    They all have people who don’t know right from wrong
    They all have believers and unbelievers.
    But they don’t have the same number of gun deaths.
    See https://edition.cnn.com/2017/10/03/americas/us-gun-statistics/index.html
    See https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2017/10/06/555861898/gun-violence-how-the-u-s-compares-to-other-countries

  34. They don’t have out of control inner cities like the US does.

  35. Sandy Hook isn’t in the inner city. Neither are many other gun massacres. The problem is with the gun culture in the United States and, of course, your gun culture and the Second Amendment.

  36. Not the gun culture; how about the violence culture? How about discussing the years of violent video games, movies and television jammed into kids heads from day one. Maybe this combined with lack of faith in God makes it easier for a person to make the decision to kill.
    Get past your personal hang up with guns and look at the causes.

  37. It’s too bad you support flooding inner cities with illness guns. Kind of undermines any need to take your view seriously.

    As I said, the NRA has a vested interest in making sure law abiding citizens are indistinguishable from gun smugglers and to frustrate sane methods of law enforcement on the matter.

    “By your logic, we should also confiscate cars ”

    Actually that is YOUR logic. You oppose the nation wide level gun ownership data like we do with cars. I suggest we regulate guns on the same level.

    Your objection to such things are garbage. While the lack of such data collection enables illegal guns to flood cities,
    There has been no history of using gun registration data for confiscation even at local levels where collected. (Red Dawn was right wing fantasy film not a rational point of argument)

    All you have done is made it clear you do not read or bother to understand opposing views. You simply make up strawman arguments and ignore the points made.

  38. Still much harder to do than a mass shooting. Just walking in and pulling a trigger is much simpler than nonsense alternatives ammosexuals come up with.

  39. Regulation is not infringing on their rights. Banning weapons of mass murder is not infringing on their rights. And I for one don’t believe their imaginary rights are more important than the lives of their fellow citizens to be alive.

    But you are right. You don’t want to be like any other western country.

  40. Every firearm can be a weapon of mass murder.

    So can motor vehicles, gasoline, explosives, fertilizer, and on and on.

    Banning firearms per se is infringing on the Second Amendment.

    And that right is hardly imaginary.

  41. It would probably be much easier to do.

  42. Understand that when it comes to rights, Ben knows what rights he wants for himself.

    You might ask him about minority rights.

  43. Parker, the problem isn’t me, the problem is gun crime. How about stepping back and looking at the world beyond the confines of the United States.

    The culture of violence is a problem elsewhere. That’s why there is gun crime everywhere. In some countries it’s even worse than the United States. But generally peaceful countries don’t have the same amount of gun crime as the United States. The contrast is stark:

    United States: 3.85 per 100,000
    United Kingdom: 0.07 per 100,000
    Germany: 0.12 per 100,000
    The United States has 32 times the rate of violent gun deaths that Germany has. Compared with the UK, it’s 55 times the rate!
    See https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2017/10/06/555861898/gun-violence-how-the-u-s-compares-to-other-countries

    Of course, you’re right that violence is a problem. Of course it’s a worry that children are exposed to violent video games and television. Of course I can understand your fear that unbelievers may be more violent. But those violent video games and television are in Germany and the UK, too, and these countries are no more religious than the United States.

    So what is the difference? The UK responded to the Dunblane Massacre by tough gun laws. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/long_reads/firearms-act-twenty-years-on-has-it-made-a-difference-dunblane-port-arthur-a8110911.html
    Australia also responded to the Port Arthur Massacre by tough gun laws. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-04-28/fact-check-gun-homicides-and-suicides-john-howard-port-arthur/7254880

    People might differ about the effect of these laws and whether they account for some or most of the drop in gun deaths, but the response is starkly in contrast to the US response to gun massacres.

  44. See my detailed reply to your other posting.

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