Texas Supreme Court protects firearm retailer in mass shooting lawsuit

In the wake of many mass shootings, treasure-seeking lawyers often convince survivors and family members of the deceased and injured to take various forms of legal action, including targeting firearms dealers who sold an alleged mass shooter his or her firearms.

According to Fox News, the Texas Supreme Court doesn’t appear interested in allowing legal action against a gun dealer in the horrifically deadly mass church shooting that took place in Sutherland Springs, Texas over four years ago, writing in a recent ruling that the dealer who sold the shooter an AR-15 did so according to the law. 

What happened?

It was in November 2017 that shooter Devin Kelley, a dishonorably discharged member of the U.S. Air Force, walked into Sutherland Spring’s First Baptist Church and opened fire on the congregation, ultimately killing an astonishing 26 innocent people while injuring another 20 more.

His firearm of choice, a Model 8500 Ruger AR-556 semi-automatic rifle, which was complete with a 30-round magazine, was purchased at Academy Sports + Outdoors in San Antonio, Texas more than one year prior to committing his crime, in April 2016.

At the time of the purchase, the salesperson subjected Kelley to all applicable background checks and processes, even as he was purchasing the firearm with an out-of-state Colorado ID and address. Justice Debra H. Lehrmann ruled that the Academy salesperson “properly processed the required ATF Form 4473, which Kelley completed under penalty of perjury at the time of sale.”

The ruling also indicated that the sporting goods store, as required by federal law, ran Kelley through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), as they do with anyone who purchases a firearm. Kelley’s criminal record, which stemmed from a domestic dispute incident while he was serving in the Air Force, had not been updated in the FBI’s system by the Air Force.

Because of that glaring omission, Academy would have not otherwise known about Kelley’s prior conviction, which would have made him ineligible for the purchase of the firearm.

Survivors and family argued technicalities

Part of the reason why the case made its way to the state’s Supreme Court is due to the fact that the families of the deceased and the survivors who took action against Academy argued that the under the federal Gun Control Act, the “sale, delivery and receipt” of the firearm should have been in compliance with not only the laws of the state the gun was sold in but also the state in which the purchaser, Kelley, resided.

The same group also argued that Colorado’s gun laws prohibit buying magazines with more than a 15-round capacity. Because of that, they claimed that Kelley, who had a 30-round magazine with his rifle and purchased a separate 30-round magazine to go with it, was in violation of federal law.

The Texas Supreme Court justice tossed the argument, writing in her decision that federal law only covered the guns themselves and not extra components such as magazines.

Two lower courts refused to dismiss the lawsuits brought against Academy, with the Texas Supreme Court finally bringing the legal case to a close by ruling that the U.S. Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act protects the retailer, like any other who abides by the law when selling a firearm, from liability.

While the Sutherland Springs church shooting was undoubtedly one of the most horrific mass shootings in American history, hopefully, the survivors and families of the victims can move on from dealing with lawyers and the courts, and eventually find peace.

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