Three major U.S. cities have sued the federal Department of Defense over what they claim are failures to share service member information with the database that keeps track of people who are not allowed to own guns.

The U.S. Air Force has owned up to failures within its record-keeping system that led to Devin P. Kelley being able to purchase a rifle and kill 26 people in a Texas church.

The lawsuit alleges that the branches of service all have failings that prevent them from properly protecting the safety of the public.

In Kelley’s case, the Air Force did not notify the FBI of his 2012 court martial that should have prohibited him from owning a firearm.

Kelley’s case, though, is not isolated. According to paperwork filed with the lawsuit, each of the branches has committed similar errors.

The Air Force failed to notify the FBI 14 percent of the time, it claims. The Navy and Marine Corps have a 36 percent failure rate, and the Army’s rate is 41 percent, the lawsuit says.

That is simply inexcusable.

Two parts of the same federal government should be able easily to exchange information about who should be legally prevented from owning guns.

Whatever the specific numbers are – even the one deadly case that has been uncovered would be too many – this is a situation that requires immediate attention.

“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 announcing his city’s participation in the lawsuit. “New York City is joining Philadelphia and San Francisco to stand up to the Department of Defense and demand they comply with the law and repair their drastically flawed system.”

Too often, any issue with gun ownership devolved into a constitutional debate over the larger question of Second Amendment rights. No such discussion is necessary here.

The Department of Defense has failed to ensure that its service branches are complying with a common sense law that is in place to protect us from would-be attacks. There is no reason why it cannot share simple information in the interest of public safety.

The lawsuit, however it is decided, may not provide the solution we all deserve. But these cities are using their voice to argue for a good reform. Let’s hope more people don’t have to die before the situation is resolved for the good of the American people.


Editorials represent the opinion of the newspaper, not of any individual.