Families sue retailer where Sutherland Springs killer bought gun

Two Texas families have filed a $25 million lawsuit against the big box sporting goods retailer where the killer who attacked the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs purchased his rifle.

The Ward and Lookingbill families argue Academy Sports and Outdoors should not have sold Devin Patrick Kelley the Ruger AR-15 he later used to kill 26 people during a Sunday morning service in November, according to the San Antonio Express-News.

Academy has stated they transferred the gun to Kelley after he passed the required background check, though the Air Force later acknowledged that he should have been barred from being a lawful firearm possessor under federal law due to records from his military service. Kelley had been convicted of assaulting his wife and infant stepson while enlisted in the military but the service never forwarded that information to the FBI’s National Crime Information Center. Surviving relatives of at least nine of the victims have filed a separate wrongful death claim against the Air Force for that break-down.

The Protection in Lawful Commerce of Arms Act may shield Academy as they are a Federal Firearms License holder. The protection, signed into law in 2005 by President George W. Bush, has been legal kryptonite against lawsuits in the past in cases where gun dealer or manufacturer negligence is absent or hard to prove.

Families of some of the Sandy Hook shooting victims in Newtown, Connecticut — where 26 students and faculty were killed — were able to get a $1.5 million settlement from the insurance company of the gunman’s mother, but a suit brought against gun maker Remington over marketing practices was dismissed by a state judge last October citing PLCAA protections, though appeals in that case are still pending. Survivors of the Aurora, Colorado, movie theater shooting also lost a series of both state and federal claims with judges holding up PLCAA protections.

Founded in 1938 in Houston, Academy operates almost 300 stores across the Southeast.

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