(CN) -- Three of the nation's largest cities sued the Defense Department Tuesday, saying many service members who are disqualified from gun ownership haven't been reported to the national background check system.
In a lawsuit filed in federal court in Virginia, New York City, San Francisco and Philadelphia claim the Pentagon failed to report significant numbers of disqualifying records to the FBI's national background check system for gun licensing and sales.
That failure is blamed for allowing Devin Kelley, a former Air Force member who was convicted of domestic assault, to buy a high-powered rifle and shoot 26 people to death Nov. 5 in a Texas church.
“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.
The mayor said the cities are suing to demand the Defense Department “comply with the law and repair their drastically flawed system.”
Local law enforcement officials rely on the FBI's database to conduct background checks on gun permit applications and to monitor purchases. The lawsuit says it must be up to date.
The Pentagon did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.