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Judge To Decide If Case Against Gun Seller In Sutherland Springs Shooting Will Move Forward

Jason Webster, on right, the attorney for one of the families, demonstrates details of the AR-556 and magazine.
Paul Flahive
Texas Public Radio
Jason Webster, on right, the attorney for one of the families, demonstrates details of the AR-556 and magazine.

A Bexar County judge will decide Monday if a lawsuit filed by the families of victims killed in the Sutherland Springs church shootings will proceed against the store that sold the weapon to the gunman.

A lawyer for Academy Sports + Outdoors asked a Bexar County Judge Karen Pozza on Thursday for an immediate ruling on a case where the company was accused of negligently selling the weapon was used to kill 26 members of First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs on Nov. 5, 2017.

While the briefings are under seal, Militello was tasked with convincing Pozza to rule on the case without a trial.

“The law demands these cases not go forward,” said Janet Militello, attorney for Academy, in court.

Militello said the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act protects Academy from the lawsuit. The law was intended to protect gun sellers from lawsuits when their legal sales are used in crimes.

“If anyone deserves a day in court it's these families here,” said Jason Webster, one of the lawyers for the families of the victims.

The families were present as their lawyers argued Academy effectively violated the law when its San Antonio store sold a Ruger AR-556 packaged with a 30-round magazine to Devin Kelley.

Because Kelley used a Colorado ID, Academy was required to follow both Texas and Colorado statutes under federal law, they said.

The 30-round magazine that came with the rifle is illegal in Colorado. The state banned them after the Aurora theater shootings.

Militello argues the law is clear that those rules only apply to the firearm, which is legal in both states.

George Legrand, representing the families, said the magazine was a component part, comparing it to a car.

“You take the wheels off the Camaro, you can’t drive down the street — so are the wheels a component part of the Camaro?” he said. “Seems fairly simple to me.”

Pozza said she will make her ruling Monday.


Paul Flahive can be reached at or on Twitter @paulflahive


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Paul Flahive is the accountability reporter for Texas Public Radio. He has worked in public media across the country, from Iowa City and Chicago to Anchorage and San Antonio.