AUSTIN (Nexstar) — The Texas Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday in a case tied to the Sutherland Springs church shooting in 2017. The victims are suing Academy Sports & Outdoors for negligence in the sale of the firearm used in the shooting to the shooter.
“Sometimes when there’s a traumatic event, there’s an attempt to place responsibility on those who are not responsible. Academy is not responsible here. The shooter is, Devin Kelley, and perhaps the federal government,” Academy’s defense attorney, Dale Wainwright, told the Supreme Court justices Tuesday.
Kelley bought the firearm in Texas that was packaged with a 30-round magazine, a capacity that’s illegal in Colorado, where Kelley’s ID listed his residence.
“Congress has defined firearms to exclude magazines,” Wainwright argued.
Academy’s main point of defense on Tuesday hinged on the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which protects firearms manufacturers and dealers from being held liable when crimes have been committed with their products.
The victims’ attorney, Stephen Vladeck, argued removing liability does not remove immunity.
Vladeck also argued even without the 30-round magazine packaged with the gun, the sale of the firearm itself was not lawful, which would take the defense of PLCAA off the table.
“Academy’s predicate offense, for purposes of PLCAA, was selling the Ruger model 8500 to Mr. Kelly, after he presented as a resident of Colorado, a state in which that gun isn’t and cannot be sold,” Vladeck said.
He also pointed to another store’s action as evidence.
“At least one other Texas retailer refused to sell Kelley the exact same weapon only after he presented his Colorado ID,” Vladeck said.
The victims are each seeking $1 million, in addition to forcing Academy to end the practice of selling high-capacity assault rifles to visitors from states that ban them.
The Supreme Court of Texas did not indicate when they will make their decision.