Families Of People Killed In 2018 Texas School Shooting Settle Suit With Ammo Dealer

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HOUSTON (AP) — The families of those killed and injured in a 2018 Texas high school shooting have settled a lawsuit they had filed against a Tennessee-based online retailer accused of illegally selling ammunition to the student who authorities say fatally shot 10 people on campus.

Retailer Lucky Gunner was accused of failing to verify Dimitrios Pagourtzis’ age when he bought more than 100 rounds of ammunition on two occasions before the May 2018 shooting at Santa Fe High School, located about 35 miles (56.33 kilometers) southeast of Houston.

Pagourtzis was a 17-year-old student at the time of the shooting. Federal law prohibits minors from purchasing handgun ammunition, and bars licensed gun companies from selling to minors handgun or shotgun ammunition .

Under the lawsuit’s settlement, which was announced on Thursday, Lucky Gunner agreed to maintain an age verification system for customers buying ammunition, said Alla Lefkowitz, with Everytown Law, the litigation arm of the gun control advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety. Other details of the lawsuit’s settlement are still confidential.

“I would hope (the settlement) encourages (gun) companies to take notice and to want to institute these safer business practices themselves. I can’t imagine anyone wants to sell ammunition to children,” Lefkowitz said in an interview Friday.

Her organization represented the family of Sabika Aziz Sheikh, a 17-year-old Pakistani exchange student who was killed in the shooting.

“Nothing will ever bring Sabika back,” Farah Naz, Sabika’s mother, said in a statement. “But we hope that this agreement sends a message to other sellers of dangerous products: it’s your responsibility to prevent your products from ending up in the wrong hands.”

Lucky Gunner faced a similar lawsuit after the 2012 Aurora movie theater shooting in Colorado in which 12 people were killed. But a federal judge dismissed that lawsuit in 2015.

Clint McGuire, an attorney representing several other families of those who were killed or injured in the Santa Fe High School shooting, said his clients are asking Texas lawmakers to pass a law requiring proof of age for every ammunition sale in the state.

“Texas has a law requiring proof of age for anyone under 30 to purchase tobacco products … There is no good reason why there should not be a similar law for ammunition sales,” McGuire said.

Lucky Gunner and its owners argued they were immune from litigation under the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act — which prohibits firearms and ammunition manufacturers, and dealers, from being held liable when their products are used in crimes. The online ammunition company had sought to have the lawsuit dismissed but lower courts — and ultimately the Texas Supreme Court — rejected its efforts.

Lucky Gunner and its attorneys pushed back on the idea the lawsuit’s settlement will result in any changes to its business practices and that all it has agreed to do is to continue using its existing system. The company said it introduced its current age verification system in 2019.

“We didn’t agree to do anything we weren’t already doing. We’ll continue investing in a world class experience for American gun owners. We want ammo sales to be secure, convenient, and cost-effective for every law-abiding American,” Jake Felde, Lucky Gunner’s chief executive officer, said in a statement.

The owner of Lucky Gunner is Jordan Mollenhour, whose appointment to the Tennessee State Board of Education was confirmed last year. Some Tennessee Democratic lawmakers had raised doubts about how his resume qualified him for an education role and had concerns over the lawsuit.

Pagourtzis, now 22, has been ruled incompetent to stand trial and has been receiving mental health treatment at a state hospital since early December 2019. Earlier this month, a judge ordered that he be held at the hospital for up to another year. He has been charged with capital murder.

Follow Juan A. Lozano on Twitter at https://twitter.com/juanlozano70.

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