From an editorial Wednesday in the (Raleigh) News & Observer:
Into the madness surrounding Americans’ right to bear arms a Wisconsin jury on Tuesday sent a welcome message about gun sellers also bearing responsibility.
Jurors ordered a gun shop to pay nearly $6 million to two Milwaukee police officers wounded by a teenager who used a gun purchased at Badger Guns of suburban Milwaukee.
The case is only the second of its kind to go to a jury since the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, a law shielding gun shops from liability lawsuits, was signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2005. The jury fund for the gun shop in the first case.
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In the Badger Guns case, the jury weighed whether a clerk knowingly sold a handgun to a “straw buyer. ” A man purchased the gun for an 18-year-old who accompanied him but who was too young to make the purchase himself. Before the sale, the buyer noted on a form that he was not the actual buyer, but the store clerk told him to say he was.
It was hardly the shop’s first flippant treatment of gun laws, but this time it led to the serious injury of two officers, one of them losing an eye and part of his brain. The Associated Press reported that authorities say “more than 500 firearms recovered from crime scenes had been traced back to Badger Guns and Badger Outdoors.” A court document for an unrelated case called the shop the “No. 1 crime gun dealer in America.”
The shop has changed its name and shuffled its ownership to avoid liability, but in this case the negligence was so clear and the victims so compelling that responsibility was finally applied.
The verdict likely will be appealed, but for one day common sense intervened on the side of gun control.