A prominent gun store in Milwaukee has been ordered by a Wisconsin state court to pay $5.73 million to two former police officers who were severely wounded in a shooting.
Badger Guns was found by the court to be negligent due to sales that led to the 2009 shooting of former police officers Bryan Norberg and Graham Kunisch.
Badger Guns now goes by the name of Brew City Shooting Supply.
The case is only the second court case in the United States regarding the possibility of potential harm resulting from the sale of firearms, and it is the first case to rule against the gun store.
The defense plans to appeal the decision. Defense attorney James Vogts argued in court that Badger Guns couldn’t be held legally responsible for crimes committed using weapons that they sold.
In 2005, a federal law granted civil immunity to gun dealers, but there were exceptions outlined in the law. One such exception regards the “negligent entrustment” of a buyer with a gun. This exception led to the ruling against Badger Guns.
The case all started with a problematic sale. In this case a “straw purchase” took place. A “straw purchase” is when the buyer of a gun, who either cannot pass the background check or does not want their name associated with the sale, has someone else purchase the weapon for them. Straw purchases are generally legal, unless the person who completes the transaction at the store has knowledge that the person ultimately receiving the gun tends to use it for criminal activities.
In May of 2009, Jacob Collins purchased the handgun for Julius Burton. On the transaction form, Collins marked “no” in the column asking if he was the actual buyer of the gun. However, the store clerk allegedly changed the response to “yes”.
Next month, police officers Norberg and Kunisch saw Burton riding his bicycle on a sidewalk, which is a city ordinance violation in Milwaukee. The officers told Burton to move, but he refused. They started pursuing Burton, who then proceeded to shoot the officers.
Burton, who was 18 at the time of the purchase, was not old enough to purchase a handgun in the state of Wisconsin, where you must be 21 to purchase a gun. 18 year olds are only allowed to possess guns.
Eventually, the sale was traced to Badger Guns. Based on the accounts, the establishment was eventually found responsible for the negligent sale. Burton went to prison for the shooting. Collins was not charged, as he did not commit a crime.
Badgers Guns is reportedly the source of more than 500 guns located at crime scenes. It has been referred to the “No. 1 crime gun dealer in America”.
The Jury ultimately determined that Badger Guns could have done more to prevent crimes like the one against Norberg and Kunisch.
While appeals from the defense will undoubtedly take place, the ruling is still extremely significant for gun shops across the country.