Should Sutherland Springs Shooting Lead to Tougher Laws Covering Gun Sales?

A Bexar County judge is now deciding whether to throw out a lawsuit brought by the families of victims killed in the Sutherland Springs church massacre, Newsradio 1200 WOAI reports.

The litigation, which hit the court of Judge Karen Pozza this week, claims that Academy Sports & Outdoors was negligent when they sold the Ruger AR-556 assault rifle to Devin Kelley, who used it to kill 26 people.

In court attorneys for the families laid out how Kelley used cash to buy the weapon in April of 2016. He used cash and, importantly, showed a drivers license from Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Jonathan Lowy, an attorney for the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, says Kelley should not have been able to purchase the weapon with a 30-round magazine because large magazines are banned in Colorado. The legislature there decided that large magazines coupled with assault rifles were used too often by mass killers, and changed the law.

Citing federal law, he says Academy must take into account the identification used to buy a weapon and obey the laws of other states when selling firearms, even though the transaction happened in Texas.

"It was illegal to sell Devin Kelley a Ruger 8500," he testified.

Attorney Jason Webster held one of those rifles up in court, dramatically showing how it's virtually impossible to use it without a magazine. He cocked the weapon, showing the dangers of trying to insert just one bullet at a time.

The lawsuit and testimony tried to show that a weapon and the magazine that holds the bullets is one complete package, and should not be treated separately.

Ruger makes different rifles sold in different states. In Colorado, they come with a smaller magazine.

But Janet Militello, attorney for Academy, argued that they are not responsible for the actions of a person, citing the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, or PLCAA. It shields firearms dealers from being sued if a crime is committed with a weapon they sold.

She agreed that the massacre was a tragedy but the family, she argued, does not have standing to sue.

"They deserve the compassion of all Texans, but the plaintiffs are to hold Academy accountable for Devin Kelley's bad acts."

The families are asking for $25 million in damages.

Judge Pozza is set to rule on a motion for summary judgement on Monday.

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