Memorial to the Lost

Memorial to the Lost
at Chester Eastside Ministries

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

In today's NYT: Bager Guns found Liable for straw sale

A jury in Milwaukee County Circuit Court on Tuesday held that a gun shop that sold a pistol to a straw purchaser was negligent and ordered it to pay $6 million to two police officers, The Associated Press reported.

The suit, brought against Badger Guns, a gun shop just outside Milwaukee, was closely watched by gun-control advocates, the firearms industry and legal scholars because it involved a rare test before a jury of the responsibility of gun sellers for the criminal use of their products.

Gun-control groups hoped that a victory would embolden more victims and lawyers to sue what they say is a small minority of gun stores that make questionable sales.

The case arose in May 2009 when a 21-year-old man bought a Taurus semiautomatic pistol at Badger Guns on behalf of an 18-year-old friend. The friend, Julius Burton, who was too young to legally purchase a gun, accompanied the buyer to the store and helped select the weapon.

Weeks later, Mr. Burton used the gun to shoot two Milwaukee police officers in the face, leaving one with brain damage and a blind eye. Mr. Burton is serving 80 years for attempted murder, and the buyer, Jacob Collins, served two years for the illegal purchase.

The two officers and the City of Milwaukee sued Badger Guns, arguing that its employees either knew the sale was illegal or were grossly negligent in allowing it to proceed.

It was only the second time in the last decade that a civil lawsuit alleging negligent sales by a gun shop reached a jury. Victims and city governments had tried to sue the gun industry dozens of times in the 1980s and after, but more than 30 states — and Congress, in 2005 — passed laws barring most lawsuits against gun makers and sellers for the way that buyers use their products.

The federal law, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, provides for exceptions that were cited in the Milwaukee case: Victims wounded with a weapon can pursue civil damages if the seller of a firearm knew, or should have known, that the transaction was illegal, or that it would very likely pose a danger.

In instructions to jurors, Judge John J. DiMotto said they must decide whether a “preponderance of evidence” indicated that store employees “believed or had reasonable cause to believe” that Mr. Collins was not buying the weapon for his own use.

In a two-week trial, lawyers for the plaintiffs argued that many red flags on the day of the purchase should have aroused suspicion and led the store clerk to question Mr. Collins and his hovering friend more aggressively and to refuse the sale.

Mr. Burton was seen in a security videotape helping Mr. Collins choose the Taurus handgun. The two walked outside together briefly when Mr. Collins did not have enough money in his pocket to cover the $414 transaction.

As Mr. Collins struggled with paperwork, he checked on a federal form that he was not buying the gun for himself, then altered the answer when the clerk noted that it was inconsistent with what he had said on the state form.

“Badger Guns was supposed to be the public’s gatekeeper,” Patrick O. Dunphy, the chief lawyer for the police officers and the city, told the jury in his closing argument Monday.

“This is your opportunity to send a message to other gun dealers,” Mr. Dunphy said as he asked for millions in personal and punitive damages.

But James Vogts, a lawyer for the defense, in recounting the sequence of events, said that it had been far from obvious that Mr. Collins was buying the gun for Mr. Burton, and that the clerk and the store would never have intentionally made a criminal sale.

According to the law, Mr. Vogts told the jury, it is not enough to show that the clerk “should have been more careful.” Rather, the plaintiffs had to show that he had “real reason to believe that a crime was being committed in his presence.”

Defendants in the suit included Adam J. Allan, who owned Badger Guns at the time of the sale; his father, Walter J. Allan; and Milton E. Beatovic, who had co-owned a previous gun store in the same location called Badger Outdoors.

The plaintiffs said Walter Allan and Mr. Beatovic were part of a conspiracy because they sold the store to Adam Allan in 2007, after losing their federal firearms license, in what the plaintiffs said was a sham scheme. The plaintiffs said Walter Allan and Mr. Beatovic continued to bear responsibility for the store’s lax sales oversight.

Walter Allan and Mr. Beatovic denied that the sale of the store was anything but normal.
Badger Guns’ federal firearms license was revoked in 2011 because of repeated violations. But the 2009 sale to Mr. Collins was not one of those violations, and Judge DiMotto did not allow the jury to hear about the revocation.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Wounded Police Officers Sue Gun Store that Permitted Straw Sale

by Eric Eckholm
MILWAUKEE — At 18, Julius Burton could not legally buy a gun. So he paid a 21-year-old acquaintance $40 to accompany him to Badger Guns, just outside the city limits here, and be the official buyer of a weapon.
Mr. Burton pointed to a Taurus semiautomatic pistol and said, “That’s the one I want,” according to surveillance video from that day in 2009 and trial testimony. Then he helped his friend, who was struggling to fill out a two-page form. A hovering store clerk helped as well, showing the friend how to correct mistakes and ensure he was listed as the buyer.
A month later, on June 9, 2009, Mr. Burton shot two police officers with the Taurus. One lost an eye and was left with brain damage; the other was seriously wounded in the face.
It was a classic straw purchase, an important way guns enter the underground market, though an unusually well-documented one because of the video and the quick identification of the true buyer.
But the case is unusual in another way. The wounded officers and the city of Milwaukee brought a civil lawsuit in state court against the gun store, charging that the clerk knew or should have known that the transaction was illegal. Closing arguments were delivered on Monday in Milwaukee County Circuit Court in what has been a rarity in the last decade — a jury trial on the obligations of gun dealers who make questionable sales.
A victory for the officers, legal experts say, could bring renewed energy to civil litigation aimed at making the gun industry safer.
The case is part of a new wave of lawsuits — at least 10 are percolating around the country — that focus on gun shops like Badger and accuse them of knowingly permitting illegal sales or of being grossly negligent.
Lawsuits against gun sellers and makers were sharply restricted 10 years ago, when Congress passed a law giving the industry wide immunity from blame for the misuse of its products.
“If the jury in Milwaukee rules for the victims, it would be a notable and unusual victory,” said Timothy D. Lytton, an expert in tort law and gun cases at the Georgia State University College of Law. “It may well embolden more plaintiffs to bring lawsuits,” he said, “and give new momentum to a litigation campaign that looked all but dead after 2005.”
The Badger Guns clerk, Donald R. Flora, and the store owner, Adam J. Allan, said they did not realize that Mr. Burton’s acquaintance, Jacob Collins, was a straw buyer, and their lawyers have cited the stringent limits on liability in the 2005 law, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, in defense.
to read more, click here

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Life as a Gunshot Survivor: the hidden cost of gun violence (in The Trace, by Mike Spies)

An estimated 9,000 people have been killed by gun so far this year in America, according to the Gun Violence Archive. More than twice as many have been wounded — and while few fatal shootings generate media attention, even less attention is paid to this second group. The survivors of shootings remain largely anonymous as they disappear into their communities. How does getting wounded by a bullet, or bullets, change a person’s life? The answer is we really don’t know.

Enter Jooyoung Lee, a 34-year-old sociologist who for several years has followed the lives of gunshot victims, documenting the myriad physical and mental traumas they must cope with. His subjects are young, working-class, African-American men — those most affected by gun violence in America — who generally lack resources and access to quality healthcare. Says Lee, “I wanted to know what happens to people who are left to fend for themselves.”
In a 2013 article titled, “The pill hustle: Risky pain management for a gunshot victim,” published in the journal Social Science & Medicine, Lee explores what happens to black men who can’t afford pain medication. One subject, a line cook at a sports bar, was shot repeatedly in the chest and shoulder by his landlord after failing to pay rent. Under the law, the man was entitled to emergency care and even follow-up visits. “But,” Lee writes, once victims like him “are deemed healed by providers and released from continued care, [they] continue to struggle with injuries, chronic pain, and health problems that diminish their quality of life.” This is especially true for the so-called working poor, who “depend on an able body for their livelihood.” Later on, this same man is denied Social Security Disability Insurance and, desperately searching for relief, throws himself against a moving car, in a successful bid to be taken to a clinic where he can receive Percocet.
To read more, click here

Sunday, October 4, 2015

In today's NYT, Nicholas Kristoff, on reducing gun violence. More preschoolers are shot dead each year than police officers in the line of duty

We’ve mourned too often, seen too many schools and colleges devastated by shootings, watched too many students get an education in grief. It’s time for a new approach to gun violence.
We’re angry, but we also need to be smart. And frankly, liberal efforts, such as the assault weapons ban, were poorly designed and saved few lives, while brazen talk about banning guns just sparked a backlash that empowered the National Rifle Association.
What we need is an evidence-based public health approach — the same model we use to reduce deaths from other potentially dangerous things around us, from swimming pools to cigarettes. We’re not going to eliminate guns in America, so we need to figure out how to coexist with them.
First, we need to comprehend the scale of the problem: It’s not just occasional mass shootings like the one at an Oregon college on Thursday, but a continuous deluge of gun deaths, an average of 92 every day in America. Since 1970, more Americans have died from guns than died in all U.S. wars going back to the American Revolution.
When I reported a similar figure in the past, gun lobbyists insisted that it couldn’t possibly be true. But the numbers are unarguable: fewer than 1.4 million war deaths since 1775, more than half in the Civil War, versus about 1.45 million gun deathssince 1970 (including suicides, murders and accidents).
If that doesn’t make you flinch, consider this: In America, more preschoolers are shot dead each year (82 in 2013) than police officers are in the line of duty (27 in 2013), according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the FBI.
More than 60 percent of gun deaths are suicides, and most of the rest are homicides. Gun enthusiasts scoff at including suicides, saying that without guns people would kill themselves by other means. In many cases, though, that’s not true.
In Great Britain, people used to kill themselves by putting their heads in the oven and asphyxiating themselves with coal gas. This accounted for almost half of British suicides in the late 1950s, but Britain then began switching from coal gas to natural gas, which is much less lethal. Sticking one’s head in the oven was no longer a reliable way to kill oneself — and there was surprisingly little substitution of other methods. Suicide rates dropped, and they stayed at a lower level.
The British didn’t ban ovens, but they made them safer. We need to do the same with guns.
When I tweeted about the need to address gun violence after college shooting in the Roseburg, Ore., a man named Bob pushed back. “Check out car accident deaths,” he tweeted sarcastically. “Guess we should ban cars.”
Actually, cars exemplify the public health approach we need to apply to guns. We don’t ban cars, but we do require driver’s licenses, seatbelts, airbags, padded dashboards, safety glass and collapsible steering columns. And we’ve reduced the auto fatality rate by 95 percent.
to read more, click here