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San Antonians Want Academy Sports to Stop Selling Semi-Automatic Guns 

click to enlarge ALEX ZIELINSKI
  • Alex Zielinski
Days after Devin Kelley killed 26 members of Sutherland Springs' First Baptist Church with an AR-15 assault rifle, Academy (the store where Kelley had legally purchased the gun) advertised a new "hot deal" online: Discounted boxes of the very bullets Kelley used in his attack.

"Academy is supposed to be better than this," said Shannon Perez, who helped organize a protest in front of a San Antonio Academy store on Saturday.

But it wasn't just the questionable marketing that brought Perez and a group of 30 parents, kids, and other gun control advocates outside on a drizzly Saturday afternoon. They want the Texas sporting goods store to stop selling semi-automatic firearms altogether.

"CVS stopped selling tobacco. HEB doesn't sell liquor. Academy shouldn't sell assault rifles," said Yonhui Bell, who came to the rally with three of her kids. "This isn't meant to be political, or partisan. This is about a store where you take your children that's selling guns that have been used to kill children."

The group knows it wasn't Academy's fault that a criminally violent man bought an assault rifle from its store — when staff ran Kelley through a federal background check for gun buyers, his name came up clean. The U.S. Air Force has since admitted that it failed to submit his domestic assault conviction into the database. That conviction should have kept him from ever purchasing firearms in the future. But, the group argues, that doesn't mean the company should shed all guilt.

"It's not their fault he bought the gun from them. But they need to hold themselves responsible," Perez said.

Academy currently sells more than one hundred different semi-automatic weapons on its online store.

Shortly after the Nov. 5 shooting, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said that if more people were armed in First Baptist Church last Sunday, its likely less people would have died. To Perez, this kind of statement is infuriating — and wildly uninformed.

"A semi-automatic weapon is designed to kill many people in a very short amount of time. Seconds. There's no way anyone in that church could have reached for a gun before they were hit," Perez said.

If Kelley had come in with a handgun or shotgun, Perez said, the churchgoers would have likely had time to react and stop him. But a semi-automatic weapon is an entirely different type of killing machine.

Many cars honked and waved as they whizzed past the small protest. But some revved their engines to intimidate the group — one truck purposefully spewed dark black exhaust smoke onto a group of kids holding homemade signs reading "guns are bad" and "play with balls not guns."

Bill Wilkie, a former San Antonio police officer, came to the protest to debunk the belief that semi-automatic weapons are just for hunting. "I grew up going sport hunting in Texas," he said. "And let me tell you — you don't need a semi-automatic weapon to hunt animals. There has to be a line. Yeah, some people want to own bazookas, but we don't sell those. Why should this be any different?"

Wilkie admitted that this specific focus is only part of the work that needs to be done, nationally, to combat gun violence.

"It's one of many steps. We need new legislation, new laws. But this is supposed to be a family sports center," he said. "All we're asking is to be more responsible to your community."

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