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Katter Law Firm NYC Personal Injury Blog

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Verdict against Gun Shop could prevent guns from getting to bad guys

{3:10 minutes to read} In 2010, two Milwaukee police officers sued a gun store that improperly sold the weapon that was used to shoot and maim them. They sued to recover money damages for their personal injuries.  

On the day they were shot, the officers had approached 18-year-old Julius Burton and they struggled. Burton pulled out a gun and shot both officers in the face. One officer lost an eye and part of his brain; the other officer was shot in the mouth and bullet fragments remain in his cheek.

Last month, in a civil trial, the evidence showed that Burton came into the gun store with another man. Although Burton, the shooter, could not buy a gun himself, it was obvious to the jury that the person who accompanied him was buying it for Burton. The jury found that the gun store and its owner broke four federal laws and carelessly sold the gun to what the law calls a “straw buyer.”  A straw buyer is someone who’s legally buying a gun for someone who cannot legally purchase one themselves. The jury rendered a verdict against the gun store.

Will the Verdict Have a Ripple Effect?

In 2005, President Bush signed a law that shielded gun dealers and manufacturers from civil lawsuits for monetary damages for people injured by shootings. Although the law has exceptions, they are rarely met. The Milwaukie police officers’ situation shows that a case against a gun shop can be won. Could this be the beginning of a national trend?

The Milwaukee case presented an obvious example of a straw buyer that any responsible gun seller should have recognized and refused to sell to either individual:

  • Both men came into the store at the same time.
  • Burton, the shooter, pointed to the gun he wanted.
  • The buyer first stated he wasn't the buyer and then changed to say he was the buyer,
  • Both men left the store to get cash and then returned to the store together to make the purchase.

Upon closer examination, it was learned that this Milwaukee gun store had a history of selling to straw buyers: In 2005 alone, 537 crime-related weapons were recovered that originated from this gun store.

Even though New York has strict gun laws, guns sold legally in other states often wind up being brought to New York and resold to people who would be prohibited from buying a gun in the state of sale. Those guns are then used to shoot, kill and harm New Yorkers.

Hopefully, this case will force gun manufacturers to make sure that the stores they sell to don’t turn a blind eye to bogus sales. The Milwaukie police officers’ legal victory could be the beginning of a way to cut down on guns getting into the hands of criminals.   

Do you believe the law should protect gun stores from lawsuits to recover damages from them for improperly sold guns or should they have to answer for their hazardous conduct? Contact ron@katterlaw.com with questions or comments.

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