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Family that lost nine in Sutherland Springs church shooting sues U.S. government

The Holcombes claim "institutional failures" allowed the gunman to purchase weapons used in the massacre.

Charlene Uhl cries while viewing a cross with the name and picture of her 16-year-old daughter, Haley Krueger, at a memorial where 26 crosses were placed to honor the 26 victims killed at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs on November 9, 2017 in Sutherland Springs, Texas. (Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Charlene Uhl cries while viewing a cross with the name and picture of her 16-year-old daughter, Haley Krueger, at a memorial where 26 crosses were placed to honor the 26 victims killed at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs on November 9, 2017 in Sutherland Springs, Texas. (Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

A Texas family that lost nine members in a church shooting last November has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government, claiming that official negligence and a lack of oversight allowed the gunman from to purchase his weapons.

The Holcombe family, which was decimated in the Sutherland Springs church shooting blamed the government in a suit filed last week “for death that was caused by institutional failures and the negligent or wrongful acts or omissions.”

Joe and Claryce Holcombe’s son, John Bryan Holcombe, and eight other members of their extended family, as well as an unborn child, were among the 25 deaths in the deadliest mass shooting at a church in U.S. history.

The shooter, Devin Patrick Kelley, who died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound following his shooting spree, was a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, which the Holcombes argue should have done a better job of recording Kelley’s violent history.

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“Years before the shooting … then Airman Kelley was court-martialed and convicted of assault against his wife and young stepson,” the suit reads. “That conviction made it illegal for the shooter to purchase or possess a firearm and should have block him from ever again purchasing any gun.”

The lawsuit claims that the U.S. government was required to enter Kelley’s conviction into federal databases, and its failure to do so allowed the gunman to “purchase an assault-style rifle as a direct result of the US Air Force’s admitted, systemic and long-standing failure to comply with the law.”

The Holcombes are seeking $25 million each in damages. According to USA Today, the Air Force has, since the shooting, reviewed several years’ worth of offenses and corrected similar such mistakes.

The lawsuit comes at a critical time when many advocates are frustrated with what they see as inaction on the part of the federal government — including the US Congress — to address the issue of gun control. Many have taken matters in their own hands. Last week, survivors of the Parkland school shooting in Florida announced a bus tour across the country aimed at registering young voters.