Gun shop held liable for police shooting; could impact future cases

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MILWAUKEE, Wisc. (WSPA) – A gun store was found liable Tuesday, in the shooting of two Milwaukee police officers. That’s the verdict a jury came to after 12 hours of deliberations.

The officers filed suit claiming the store was negligent in selling the weapon. Now, the ruling in this case could impact gun stores all over the country.

Mike Jones runs ‘The Gun Shop’ in Simpsonville. He says there is only so much they can do if someone is trying to make a ‘straw purchase,’ or illegally buying a gun for somebody else.

“We do try to ask questions. We try to listen to the dynamic between people when they come in,” said Jones.

In most cases, he said there’s nothing suspicious happening. However, let’s say a gun sale ends up in the hands of a person who didn’t buy the gun and that person uses that gun for bad.

Should the gun store be held responsible? That’s exactly what that Milwaukee jury was charged with deciding.

In 2009, Officers Graham Kunisch and Bryan Norberg approached 18-year-old Julius Burton for riding his bike on the sidewalk. They struggled and Burton pulled a gun, shooting both officers in the face.

Kunisch lost an eye and had to have part of his brain removed. Norberg was shot in the mouth and still has bullet fragments in his cheek.

Burton was arrested and charged, but surveillance video inside shows Burton with a friend at the badger guns store a month before the shooting. Court records say he paid the friend $40 to buy a gun for him because he was underage.

The store clerk appears to help the friend fill out the paperwork. That clerk told jurors he was unaware the sale was an illegal sale or a ‘straw purchase’.

“The last thing we want to do is put a gun in somebody’s hands that’s going to commit a crime,” he said on the stand.

The jury decided his store has to pay up in the millions for both officers. Legal experts are saying this could set a tone across the nation for how gun cases are handled.

Mike Jones said he sees both sides.

“I do feel for the police officers. I just retired from law enforcement myself and been through a shooting. I do feel for them in that case,” said Jones.

However, he said the blame really is on the person buying the gun.

“I feel like the burden is on the person who is making the straw purchase. The only time you’re going to do that is because there is a person who can’t buy a firearm. Obviously, they don’t need it. That person needs to be held liable but, unfortunately, most of the time you have to follow the money. Everyone wants to sue the business instead of the person actually responsible,” said Jones.

There are currently a half dozen other lawsuits pending against gun dealers or gun stores for allegedly allowing the illegal sale of firearms. Tuesday’s verdict could impact those and future cases

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