Fourth Circ. Decision a Step Toward Justice for Charleston Families
Washington, D.C. | September 5, 2019 — The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that survivors and family members of the victims of the 2015 Charleston church shooting can proceed with their lawsuit against the federal government for its failure to block the sale of the gun used in the tragedy. The decision reversed the trial court's holding that the Brady Law provided the government immunity from suit. This decision has been hailed as a monumental step toward justice.
Brady, represented by Kellogg Hansen partner Scott H. Angstreich and associate Benjamin S. Softness, filed an amicus brief in support of the survivors and families and specifically focused on an analysis of the Brady Law. Mr. Softness presented oral argument on this point before the Fourth Circuit panel, which cited Brady in its decision. “As the Brady Center points out,” the court observed, “when Congress seeks to immunize the Federal Government from liability, it knows how to do so...No such grant of immunity exists here.”
After the decision, Mr. Softness said, “The Brady Act gives the federal government a critical role in keeping guns out of the hands of the wrong people, and we’re honored to work with Brady to make sure that responsibility is upheld. The Fourth Circuit’s ruling makes clear that the Brady Act does not allow the federal government to escape accountability for the consequences of its tragic mistake.”
The case involves a failure of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) and highlights a dangerous gap in the law that permits gun sales to go through after three days — even if a background check hasn’t been completed. If not for this so-called “Charleston loophole,” the shooter would not have been able to obtain the gun he used to kill nine people at the Emanuel AME Church.
“Brady went to court seeking justice for the survivors and victim families of the Charleston church shooting, and we are happy to be part of the team that secured this victory," said Tanya Schardt, Senior Counsel for Brady. "The court heard us loud and clear: The federal government is in no way immune from liability under the Brady Act, when it comes to this horrific tragedy, which could and should have been avoided.”
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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 the common sense. In the spirit of our founders Jim and Sarah Brady, we have fought for over 25 years to take action, not sides, and we will not stop until this epidemic ends. It’s in our hands.