Judge Rules Sporting Goods Store that Sold Sutherland Springs Church Shooter Gun Can Be Sued by Victims


At Webster Vicknair MacLeod, our team of compassionate legal advocates are dedicated to helping clients obtain the justice they deserve. That is why our law firm took on the lawsuit against the sporting goods store where the Sutherland Springs church massacre shooter purchased his firearm and ammunition.

On February 4th, a judge in the case ruled that the victims and families of the tragedy have the right to seek compensation from Academy Sports + Outdoors. The sporting goods store requested to have the lawsuit thrown out, but after the judges’ ruling, it will be allowed to proceed all the way to a jury trial if necessary.

Now that the lawsuit has been allowed, it could have major implications for gun laws in Texas and across the United States. This is because it might test the limits of state and federal gun laws, as well as address some of the long-standing and hotly contested legal questions regarding gun owners’ rights. One issue that will be addressed is whether gun dealers have to decline selling specific items depending on the consumer’s place of residence. The other issue is whether victims of shootings have the right to file civil suits for monetary damages against dealers.

The lawsuit alleges Academy Sports + Outdoors is liable for the shooting carried out by Devin P. Kelley because employees at one of the company’s retail locations sold him a high-capacity magazine that is illegal in Colorado. Although the gun was bought in Texas, Kelley was a Colorado resident. The lawsuit is requesting millions in damages for physical and mental anguish, disfigurement, and medical expenses.

For nearly three hours, our attorney, Jason Webster, argued with the opposing counsel over federal and state laws and if Academy Sports + Outdoors should have refused to sell the firearm that was used in the mass shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs on November 5th, 2017.

One major issue debated in the case is whether the federal definition of a firearm includes the magazine it is sold with and whether Colorado’s law banning the sale of high-capacity magazines applies if a Colorado resident purchases the magazine in Texas.

Under the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), firearms dealers are protected from lawsuits if a crime is committed with a weapon they sold. However, there are two exceptions to this law: cases of negligence and if the dealer knowingly violated federal or state laws when they sold the weapon.

Speaking in court, attorney Webster said, “Academy is the gatekeeper to protect people from buying guns who shouldn't have them. When you have a guy who's 850 miles from his home and paying cash ... that kind of raises some flags."

To further drive his point, attorney Webster clutched an AR-556 in one hand and a magazine in the other. Addressing the court, Mr. Webster said one doesn't work without the other. "If Academy were to have followed the law, that gun would not have been in his hands," Webster said. "If anybody deserves their day in court, it's these families here.”

Have you or a loved one suffered injuries caused by the negligence of others? If so, you should get in touch with our team of legal professionals to discuss the details of your case. Call (713) 396-5197 to schedule a free consultation with one of our Houston personal injury lawyers.

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