Reason Roundup

Government To Blame for Texas Church Shooting That Left 26 Dead, Says Court

Plus: Trump's absurd lawsuits against social media, states take aim at Google app store, and more...


The U.S. government bears responsibility for the mass shooting that took place at a Texas church in 2017, a federal court says. The shooting—one of the deadliest in recent history—left 26 people at the Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church dead. A federal judge ruled on Tuesday that the U.S. Air Force is 60 percent to blame.

The shooter, Devin Patrick Kelley, had been in the Air Force before getting court-martialed on suspicion of assaulting his wife and stepson. He pled guilty to aggravated assault against the stepson and assault against his wife, was sentenced to 12 months confinement, and got a bad conduct discharge.

But the Air Force failed to alert the FBI to his domestic violence charge. Had it done so, Kelley would've been put in a federal database that prohibited him from legally purchasing guns. Instead, he went on to legally purchase an AR-556 rifle that he used in the shooting, along with several other firearms.

"Had the Government done its job and properly reported Kelley's information into the background check system—it is more likely than not that Kelley would have been deterred from carrying out the Church shooting," wrote Judge Xavier Rodriguez of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas in his opinion.

The judge seems to be making the assumption beloved by advocates for stricter gun laws: that if the shooter were barred from legally purchasing or owning guns, he would have been deterred from committing violence. That's a big if.

"The decision follows a lawsuit brought by the families of the victims against the government," notes CNBC. "Rodriguez also ordered a later trial within 15 days to assess monetary damages owed to survivors and victims' families."

The families also sued the store that sold Kelley the rifle he used in the shooting. The Texas Supreme Court dismissed the suit last month, noting that the store had done nothing wrong since Kelley passed his background check.


Trump is suing Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. The former president filed class-action lawsuits against the social media sites on Wednesday, saying they violated his First Amendment rights. "Defendants' callous disregard of its Users' constitutional rights is no better exemplified than in the matter currently before the Court," the suits state.

As Reason's Robby Soave wrote yesterday, former President Donald Trump's case is "completely absurd and will be laughed out of court." Only the government—not private companies—can violate the First Amendment.

Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are not state actors. It was Trump filling the role of state actor at the time of the social media bans. The First Amendment does not compel private entities to hand the government a megaphone; it constrains the government from requiring private entities to engage, or not engage, in speech. As NetChoice's Steve DelBianco points out, "The First Amendment is designed to protect the media from the President, not the other way around."


Google Play Store latest antitrust target. Another week, another dubious anti-tech antitrust case filed by attention-seeking attorneys general. This time, the top prosecutors from 37 states have filed a civil suit against Google. (Here's Google's response.) "The case marks the fourth antitrust lawsuit lodged against the company by U.S. government enforcers in the past year," notes CNBC.

The latest suit focuses on the Google Play store, which lets Android phone users find and download apps. "Google's durable monopoly power in the markets for Android app distribution and in-app purchases is not based on competition on the merits," the states argue. "These monopolies are maintained through artificial technological and contractual conditions that Google imposes on the Android ecosystem."

Last week, a federal court dismissed antitrust complaints brought by states and the Federal Trade Commission against Facebook, ruling that they had failed to actually show that Facebook is a monopoly.


• "Election fraud is the GOP's new fundamentalism," suggests Bonnie Kristian at The Week.

• It's time to retire generational labels, argues sociology professor Philip N. Cohen.

• A newspaper editor in North Carolina was jailed over one of his reporters taking an audio recording at a murder trial. "Judge Stephan Futrell sentenced Gavin Stone, the news editor of the Richmond County Daily Journal, to five days in jail before having the editor hauled off to jail. Stone was released the next day but still faces the possibility of more time in lockup," reports the Associated Press.

• Extremism "is in the eye of the beholder," writes J.D. Tuccille. "And too many campaigners against extremism seem eager to turn their efforts into restrictions not just on what people do with their ideas, but also on the range of ideas they are allowed to voice."

• New research casts doubt on the efficacy of intermittent fasting.

• "The percentage of Americans who evaluate their lives well enough to be considered 'thriving' on Gallup's Live Evaluation Index reached 59.2% in June, the highest in over 13 years of ongoing measurement and exceeding the previous high of 57.3% from September 2017," notes Gallup. "During the initial COVID-19 outbreak and economic shutdown, the thriving percentage plunged nearly 10 percentage points to 46.4% by late April 2020, tying the record low last measured during the Great Recession."

• Is an increase in gun sales driving up violent crime? Stephen Gutowski argues that the opposite is true:

• Some good criminal justice reform news out of Rhode Island: