Academy sports activities chain cannot be sued for promoting gun utilized in Texas’ deadliest mass capturing, state Supreme Court docket says

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The man who shot 26 people in a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas couldn’t have bought the deadliest mass shooting ever, but the store that sold it to him cannot be sued because a federal database failed to to report his previous conviction for assault, the Texas Supreme Court ruled on Friday.

In a unanimous verdict, the state’s highest civil court dismissed several lawsuits against Academy Sports + Outdoors by survivors and families of victims of the 2017 mass shooting.

In four lawsuits filed in Bexar County, victims and family members accused the retailer of negligence in selling a Model 8500 Ruger AR-556, fitted with a 30-round magazine, from his San Antonio store to Devin Kelley (26), a former aviator, who was imprisoned for a year after being convicted of assault in 2012. He was discharged from the US Air Force in 2014 with a discharge. Kelley lived in Comal County, about 50 miles outside of San Antonio.

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Kelley opened fire during Sunday morning service at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, killing 25 people, including a pregnant woman, and injuring 20 others. He died of a self-inflicted shot, according to The Associated Press.

His motive was not entirely clear, but authorities said the shooting may have resulted from a domestic argument and that his mother-in-law was a member of the First Baptist Church.

In response to the lawsuits, the Academy claimed it was protected by the Federal Law on the Protection of Legitimate Arms Trade, signed in 2005, which protects arms dealers and manufacturers from legal proceedings if a third party commits a crime with a legally purchased weapon.

The Academy asked State District Judge Karen H. Pozza to dismiss the claims, but Pozza ruled against the company.

In its ruling, signed by Judge Debra Lehrmann, the Supreme Court gave the retailer a rare mandamus and ordered the court of first instance to grant the company’s motion for summary judgment.

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“Although federal law precluded Kelley from buying a firearm at the time of sale – in part because of his 2012 court martial conviction for assaulting his wife and stepson and his dishonorable discharge from the United States Air Force – this disqualifying information was not in the system, that authorized the academy to proceed with the sale, “the court stated.

Lawyers representing the academy said in a statement that the court had made a “landmark” decision.

“Our thoughts and prayers go on for the victims of this tragedy,” said the lawyers. “We believe that the entire opinion of the Supreme Court has applied the law carefully and deliberately in this situation.”

According to the regional court, nine other cases are pending against Academy in connection with the shootings. A separate lawsuit has been filed against the US government in federal court accusing the US Air Force of “failure to collect, process and report the necessary information,” according to the court records. A judgment has not yet been issued in the case.

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Days after the shooting, Republican Senator John Cornyn spoke in the Senate and mentioned the need for legislation to strengthen the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. He went on to put in place the “Fix NICS” law, which later came into effect, requiring government agencies to draw up record filing plans and penalizing agencies for failing to comply.

Stanley Bernstein, one of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs on the case, said the plaintiffs as a group were “disappointed” with the court’s decision.

“There were two ways to stop Kelley: The Academy failed the first time. The federal government failed with the second, ”said Bernstein.

He also criticized how the court came to its decision, saying his reasoning contradicted what federal officials said before the federal court about the legality of selling the weapon.

The Sutherland Springs shooting, along with a number of other mass shootings that followed, sparked heated party debates over legislative measures needed to improve gun control and security. More than a year after the shooting, in 2019, Texan lawmakers passed law allowing licensed gun owners to carry handguns in places of worship. However, places of worship may forbid visitors to bring handguns on the premises as long as this is done verbally or in writing.

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