Santa Fe families reach settlement with ammunition seller

Gun Rights

Two companies that sold and shipped ammunition to the accused Santa Fe High School shooter have reached a settlement with the families of victims of the May 2018 massacre.

Online ammunition seller Luckygunner LLC and a related company, Red Stag Fulfillment LLC, in 2020 were sued by Santa Fe families, who accused the companies of enabling “illegal and negligent actions” by selling and shipping more than 100 rounds of handgun ammunition to then-17-year-old Dimitrious Pagourtzis. The lawsuit alleged that Pagourtzis used a prepaid gift card to buy the ammunition two months before the May 18, 2018, shooting.

MORE ON CASE: Accused Santa Fe HS shooter may be committed long-term to mental health facility

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Under federal law, it’s illegal for people younger than 18 years old to buy handgun ammunition. Licensed dealers are prohibited from selling ammunition to people younger than 21 years old. 

Everytown Law, the gun violence prevention organization that represented one of the families in the lawsuit, announced Thursday that the case had been settled. The organization also said the companies agreed to “maintain an age verification system at the point of sale for all ammunition sales.” The agreement is the first of its kind, the organization said. 

“Age-verification for ammunition sales is a no-brainer, especially when the sale is conducted online,” said Alla Lefkowitz, the senior director of affirmative litigation at Everytown Law. “It simply should not be possible for a minor to go online and have ammunition shipped to their house, no questions asked.”

Under the company’s new system, anyone whose age cannot be verified or who is verified to be younger than 21 years old is refused a sale, according to the news release.

In its own statement, Lucky Gunner maintained the company hadn’t broken any laws and had been “attacked” by Everytown, claiming the organization opposed the Second Amendment. A company executive said the settlement agreement doesn’t amount to a change in policy for the company.

“We didn’t do anything we weren’t already doing,” Lucky Gunner CEO Jake Felde said. A company spokesperson didn’t respond to a question about what practices it was changing as a result of the settlement.

In a phone interview, Lefkowitz said the company lost its immunity arguments “every single time.”

“Lucky Gunner had essentially set up a website in which they could not know the age of the customer,” she said. “I think that it’s really important for other online ammo sellers to implement these practices as well. I don’t think anyone wants to be in a position where they’re selling ammunition to someone that’s underage.”

She said there are other online sellers that don’t include age verification systems on their websites.

SURVIVORS SPEAK OUT: Santa Fe school shooting survivors feel betrayed by state’s response, want more after Uvalde

Galveston County court records show the companies and the victims reached a confidential settlement in January and asked the court to dismiss the case. The settlement came after Lucky Gunner lost an appeal in which the company claimed it was immune from being sued under federal law. That decision led to the settlement. Other terms of the agreement are confidential, according to the Everytown news release.

Everytown’s attorneys represented the family of Sabika Aziz Sheikh, a 17-year-old exchange student from Pakistan who was one of the eight students and two teachers killed in the shooting. Thirteen others were injured in the shooting. 

“Sabika’s killer should never have been able to go online and buy ammunition with a few clicks,” Abdul Aziz, Sabika’s father, said in the release. “I rest easier knowing that this settlement agreement will prevent future illegal sales.”

Rhonda Hart, the mother of Santa Fe shooting victim Kimberly Vaughn, said she hoped the settlement showed that people and organizations can be held accountable after mass shootings.

“They’re usually not held to any kind of accountability,” Hart said. “But, since Parkland, we’ve seen this accountability fountain slowly get turned on and we’re going at them drip by drip.”

Other plaintiffs in the lawsuit said they planned to hold a news conference about the settlement on Friday afternoon.

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