A Milwaukee gun store was found liable in the shooting of two police officers, who claimed in their lawsuit that the gun store was negligent when it sold a handgun to a straw purchaser who then gave the firearm to an 18-year-old, reports CBS affiliate WDJT.
Back in 2009, Officers Graham Kunish and Bryan Norberg stopped Julius Burton, 18, for riding his bike on the sidewalk. The confrontation turned physical, and Burton drew a gun and shot both officers.
Norberg was shot in the mouth. Kunisch in the head, and as a result lost and eye and had part of his brain removed.
Investigators traced the firearm to Badger Gun store. Burton paid a friend $40 to purchase the firearm for him, as he was too young to legally possess it.
Surveillance footage from the store shows the clerk, Donald Flora, helping the straw purchaser fill out the paperwork, as CBS News’ Adriana Diaz reported.
Flora claimed during the trial that he didn’t know the customer was a straw purchaser.
“The last thing we want to do is put a gun in somebody’s hands that’s going to commit a crime,” said Flora on the stand.
Yet, despite Flora’s insistence that he didn’t know he was selling the gun to a straw purchaser, the jury found Badger Guns liable and awarded Norberg $1.5 million and Kunisch $3.5 million.
It didn’t help Badger Guns that prosecutors provided data showing that in 2005 more than 500 guns recovered at crime scenes were traced back to the store, making it “the number one crime gun dealer in America,” according to court documents.
Whatever one thinks about the Badger Guns incident as a stand alone case is one thing, but the larger implications it may have for other gun stores and gun manufacturers is concerning. Under federal law, gun manufacturers and dealers are immune to civil liability resulting from the “the misuse of their products by others.”
Seemingly, the ruling in this Badger Guns case directly challenges that law, known as the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which was signed into law in 2005. For perspective and clarification on the matter, GunsAmerica reached out to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry trade organization.
“The verdict shows that despite recent attacks by Hillary Clinton, including as recently as this week’s debate, on the PLCAA, the law worked exactly as Congress intended. Where a dealer has violated a law or regulation pertaining to the sale of firearms, like allegedly knowingly selling to a straw purchaser as was alleged in the Badger case, they can be sued,” said Larry Keane, senior vice president, assistant secretary and general counsel to the NSSF.
“What the PLCAA essentially does is to codify common law and say where a manufacturer or retailer lawfully sells a non-defective product they cannot be sued for the subsequent criminal misuse of the product by a third party over whom the manufacture or retailer has no control. The PLCAA passed both Houses of Congress by overwhelming bipartisan majorities,” Keane explained. “Approximately 36 state legislatures passed similar state tort reform laws to block such lawsuits before Congress enacted the PLCAA.”