Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced this week that his office is suing Fleet Farm for negligently selling firearms to straw purchasers.
“Gun dealers and retailers have a duty to be the first line of defense against people who try to illegally obtain guns and provide them directly to criminals or blindly resell them for profit on the black market,” said Attorney General Ellison in a press release obtained by GunsAmerica.
“But instead of fulfilling their legal obligation to detect and prevent straw purchases, Fleet Farm ignored multiple red flags: they took money from straw purchasers and looked the other way,” he continued. “They put their own profit over Minnesotans’ safety.”
Per the lawsuit, Attorney General Ellison is seeking injunctive relief, with increased oversight of the company’s operations, and monetary relief, including confiscating any profits made from sales to straw purchasers.
Fleet Farm, a sporting goods retailer with store locations in Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, North Dakota and South Dakota, has denied any wrongdoing, insisting that it acted within the law.
A spokesman told local media station KARE 11:
We strongly disagree with the Attorney General’s lawsuit. We comply with all applicable gun laws and devote substantial resources to training and compliance. It is disappointing that Attorney General Ellison filed his complaint without ever once talking to us. It’s also worth noting that at the time of the tragic shooting in Saint Paul described in the Attorney General’s complaint, we were told by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms that our team members had “done nothing wrong” and had complied with all applicable gun laws.
GunsAmerica reached out to the National Shooting Sporting Foundation (NSSF), the firearms industry trade association, for comment on the lawsuit.
Mark Oliva, NSSF’s managing director of public affairs, believes Elision is “abusing the courts to push an antigun agenda.”
“He [Ellison] knows that criminals lying on an ATF background check form is a crime, that being whether they are the true recipient of the firearm. That crime was committed by the illegal ‘straw’ purchaser,” Oliva explained.
“The sale of a firearm, absent any prior knowledge or reason to suspect the purchaser is not the true recipient, is not an illegal sale,” he continued.
In other words, the straw purchasers are at fault here, not Fleet Farm. Oliva emphasized the fact that even ATF investigators told Fleet Farm that it had followed all applicable federal and state laws.
What this appears to be is a publicity stunt to grab headlines, not a legitimate lawsuit in pursuit of justice. It also follows the recent trend of anti-gun activists and politicians filing frivolous lawsuits against the gun industry to damage its reputation and hurt it financially as hiring attorneys to fight these cases in court is not a cheap enterprise.
As always, stay tuned for updates.