Texas Supreme Court Tosses Lawsuits Against Store Over 2017 Church Shooting

July 19, 2021

The Texas Supreme Court in late June ruled survivors and relatives of those killed in a 2017 mass killing at a church can’t sue a sporting goods chain for selling the gunman the rifle used in the attack.

The court threw out four lawsuits against Academy Sports and Outdoors that alleged a San Antonio-area store negligently sold the gun to Devin Kelley in 2016.

Kelley killed more than two dozen people when he opened fire at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs. The 26-year-old then killed himself during a chase after the shooting.

Academy Sports and Outdoors, where the shooter purchased a Ruger AR-556 semi-automatic rifle that included a 30-round magazine, appealed after two lower courts declined to dismiss lawsuits.

The Supreme Court agreed with Academy and ruled the petitions were prohibited by the U.S. Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. The act protects retailers from lawsuits arising from criminal acts by third parties.

The lawsuits said Kelley provided store clerks with a Colorado ID, and the U.S. Gun Control Act required Academy to comply with Colorado gun laws before approving the purchase. Colorado, however, prohibits the sale of magazines holding more than 14 rounds, while Academy sold Kelley a rifle that came packaged with a 30-round magazine.

But the court said the sale was legal because the federal law applies only to the sale of firearms, not components.

Shooting survivors and relatives have also sued the U.S. Air Force, which failed to report a domestic violence conviction that would have prohibited Kelley from purchasing a firearm.

Kelley had been found guilty of assaulting his wife and stepson and was dishonorably discharged from the service in 2012, but Air Force officials failed to report the conviction to the FBI background check system despite a requirement to do so.

A federal judge in early July ruled that the U.S. Air Force is mostly responsible for the church shooting because it failed to submit his criminal history into a database, which should have prevented him from purchasing firearms.

U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez in San Antonio found that the Air Force was “60% responsible” for the massacre at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs.

Topics Lawsuits Texas Church

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