Federal Government Passes the Buck on Sutherland Springs

Picture via The Business Journals

Federal Government Implicates Academy Sports In Sutherland Springs Mass Shooting

Seen and linked from TPR, an NPR affiliate out of Texas. The Federal Government is placing the civil blame for the Sutherland Springs mass shooting (the one where the former airman convicted of felony domestic violence bought his gun after passing a background check) onto Academy Sports, the Texas retailer.

They are doing so by citing a rule that they made that states that if they screw up it isn’t their fault. No seriously, that’s in the Brady background check bill.

A federal judge in San Antonio has named Academy Sports + Outdoors a co-defendant in a lawsuit stemming from the 2017 Sutherland Springs church shooting, the deadliest in modern Texas history.

Victims and family members from Sutherland Springs sued the government for damages in 2017 after the U.S. Air Force failed to report shooter Devin Kelley’s criminal and psychiatric history to the FBI’s National Instant Background Check System as required by law. Kelley had a history of felony-level domestic violence offenses which should have disqualified him from purchasing weapons. 

The Feds are saying that since Kelley, the shooter, used an ID from a state where high capacity magazines are prohibited the sale was illegal. This makes them a “responsible third party” in the eyes of the Fed.

“Academy sold Kelley a firearm, specifically a high-capacity Model 8500 Ruger AR-556 semi-automatic AR-15 style rifle, which included a large-capacity 30-round magazine. To purchase this firearm, Kelley presented Academy with a Colorado driver’s license. With respect to the sale of that rifle, the Federal Gun Control Act required Academy to comply with the laws of both Texas, the seller’s state, and Colorado, the buyer’s apparent state of residence. Colorado law restricts the sale of high-capacity magazines, i.e. magazines holding more than fifteen rounds. Therefore, Academy was not permitted to sell Kelley the Model 8500 Ruger AR-556 under federal law because sale of that rifle would have been illegal in Colorado. On November 5, 2017, Kelley used the Model 8500 Ruger AR-556 to commit the shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs. Academy’s conduct thus contributed to causing the harm for which recovery is sought in this action.”  

If you are thinking, “Wow, that means every gun dealer has to know every law of their state and every other state when it comes to firearms.” you would be correct. A licensee is not solely responsible for assuring the legality of the sale for their own states rules, but those of the home state on the ID.

To add to that, the Ruger AR isn’t illegal, the magazine it came with was. ID’s are not required under federal law for a magazine. A magazine isn’t federally regulated, only regulated at the state level. They are using the SKU from Ruger, which comes with a 30 round magazine, to posit that the sale was illegal as a whole.

The Feds state that, despite passing the background check, because the Air Force failed to update NICS (which they cannot be held liable for, Brady Bill 1993), it was incumbent on Academy Sports to recognize that the magazine included in this sale, which the FBI cleared, was prohibited in Colorado (not Texas where they were standing) and thus deny the sale to Kelley.

I’m certain Academy wishes they had denied the sale in hindsight. When I interacted with a spree shooter here in Michigan, I and my peers wish the crazy asshole had never come into our store. The fact that he bought a fleece jacket from us turned into a whole tale of us supplying the madman with “protective gear”… yeah, protective from a slightly breezy fall day.

Leave it to .Gov to say, “It’s not our fault. It’s in the rules… that we made, but still.”

Gerald Treece, a professor of constitutional law at South Texas College of Law – Houston, said the government is trying to shift attention and blame.

“It’s a fancy way of saying, ‘We aren’t liable. But if we are, they [Academy Sports] ought to pay for it’” he said.