It appears that the Sutherland Springs shooter should not have been able to purchase the rifle used in his deadly spree, but an existing law was ignored and the firearm was sold anyway.
Families of victims in the 2017 Texas church massacre originally filed suit against the Department of Justice for negligence that led to arming the gunman.
Lawyers defending the government pointed out in a Tuesday filing that it was Academy Sports & Outdoors that failed to follow the law when selling a Ruger AR-556 to the perpetrator.
According to the filed motion, Academy’s mistake comes from the fact that the gunman used a Colorado license to purchase the firearm from a Texas store.
The specific rifle purchased came with a 30-round magazine, an accessory that’s illegal in Colorado.
The Federal Gun Control Act makes it clear that gun sellers must follow laws in the state of purchase as well as the buyer’s state of residence.
“Academy was not permitted to sell [Devin Patrick] Kelley the Model 8500 Ruger AR-556 under federal law because sale of that rifle would have been illegal in Colorado,” the filing states.
“On November 5, 2017,” it says, “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.”
Two days later, the U.S. District Court overseeing the case approved the government’s motion to designate Academy as a “responsible third party” in the lawsuit, Texas Public Radio reports.
The gunman’s ability to acquire his weapon of choice now appears to be a failure across the spectrum.
The U.S. Air Force did not report the veteran shooter’s troubled history to the National Instant Background Check System of the FBI, which would have likely prevented him from purchasing any firearms from a retailer.
Although the gunman could have secured a similar weapon through other means, the fact remains that Academy sold him the lethal device in clear violation of existing federal gun law.
A lawyer for the victims demanded the government hold the sporting goods store accountable for this and any other illegal sales.
“What is most concerning about this development is the U.S. Government has been aware of systematic and ongoing illegal gun sales by Academy Sports across their hundreds of locations, and done nothing to stop this admitted violation of the law,” he said.
“We call upon the government to immediately initiate an investigation to end Academy’s nation-wide policy of selling high capacity assault rifles to residents of states that have banned them.”
It’s unclear what would have happened had the shooter been blocked from buying the weapon used in the massacre.
Foiled in his attempt to purchase the firearm, the entire shooting might have been avoided altogether.
The gunman might have turned to a private sale, or simply stolen a similar firearm, often criminals’ choice way to arm themselves.
Existing law should have blocked this gunman from purchasing his firearm, but a failure on multiple government and private levels kept that from happening.
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