Sutherland Springs: Texas Judge Ok's Victims' Lawsuit Against Gun Store
Victims and families of the Sutherland Springs church shooting can move forward with a lawsuit against a sporting goods store who sold Sutherland Springs shooter his gun and ammunition. Judge Karen Pozza denied Academy Sports + Outdoors’ request to throw out the lawsuit.
The Sutherland Springs families allege that the chain is liable for the slaughter carried by shooter Devin P. Kelley. Kelley, who resided in Colorado where high-capacity magazines are illegal, was able to purchase one at a Texas Academy location. On Nov. 5, 2017, Kelley killed and injured dozens of people at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland. In their lawsuit, the families are seeking damages for physical and mental anguish, as well as medical expenses.
Judge Pozza’s decision can carry massive implications for gun laws in Texas and across the country. Her decision ultimately means that the victims and families can proceed with a lawsuit and eventually go to a jury trial.
Allowing the lawsuit to proceed could test the limits of state and federal gun laws. In fact, it may be able to answer long-standing and highly debated legal questions. There are two questions at the heart of the case. The first is whether the federal definition of firearms includes the magazine sold with it. The second, is if a state bans the sale of a high-capacity magazine, does the law apply to that state’s residents seeking to purchase firearms outside of the state.
In essence, this lawsuit may set a precedent for whether gun dealers must decline sales of certain items based on their legality in the buyer’s home state. It may also determine whether shooting victims can file civil suits and get monetary damages from dealers under these certain circumstances.
What is Academy arguing in the Sutherland Springs lawsuit?
Academy argues that state and federal laws prevent the chain from bearing any responsibility. Under the federal law known as the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), firearms dealers are shielded from being sued if a crime is committed with a weapon they sold. However, the PLCAA has the following exceptions:
- In cases of negligence.
- If the dealer knowingly broke federal or state laws when the weapon was sold.
Colorado banned the sale of any magazine with more than 15 rounds. Kelley presented a Colorado ID card when he purchased a firearm that came with a 30-round magazine. In addition, he bought a second 30-round magazine from a Texas Academy location.
However, Academy argues that because the items were purchased in Texas that it was within the limits of the law to sell Kelley high-capacity magazines. Academy also contends that “magazine” is not included in the definition of a firearm.
What are the Sutherland Springs families arguing against Academy?
The families say that Academy was grossly negligent in selling Kelley, a Colorado resident, firearms with a high-capacity magazine. Attorneys for the families are arguing that federal law prohibits the sale of firearms to out of state residents. However, there are two exceptions:
- The buyer meets the seller in person.
- The sale fully complies with the legal conditions of sale in both states.
Attorneys for the families rebutted Academy’s claim that magazines aren’t part of the definition of a firm. For example, guns can’t do their primary function without magazines in the same way a car can’t do its primary function without wheels.
Sutherland Springs victims and families lawsuit against the government
The victims of the Sutherland Springs church massacre are also suing the federal government for what they say is negligence. Despite Kelley’s history of domestic violence, the U.S. Airforce admitted that it failed to report Kelley to the federal criminal database. This essentially allowed Kelley to purchase firearms without raising any red flags.
This case may also signal massive changes to America’s gun laws. It may be the first time that victims can draw a straight line connecting a mass shooting to government negligence.
The Carlson Law Firm Can Help
Mass shootings are an all too common occurrence in the United States. Each year, even after the headlines move on, hundreds of families are left dealing with the aftermath of a mass shooting. The emotional toll that losing a loved one takes on you doesn’t fade as easily as mass shootings fade in collective our memories. Holding someone accountable for the devastating and senseless loss of a loved one will not bring that person back, but it can help you begin rebuilding your life and cement your loved one’s legacy.
We can help you recover damages for hospital expenses, physical therapy, and other medical bills. In addition, we can help those who have lost a loved one recover funeral expenses and therapy bills as a result of the emotional turmoil they are suffering.
Further, a civil mass shooting lawsuit can help you recover through answering the questions you thought you’d never get the answer to. It can also move the national conversation forward on how these acts can be prevented.
Contact our team of dedicated attorneys at The Carlson Law Firm for more information on civil mass shooting lawsuits. Our qualified legal team will fight for justice for you and your loved ones.