Wisconsin jury ignores federal law in gun shop case

Radio personality and CNN host Michael Smerconish doesn’t limit himself to the broadcast world. He published an article at Philly.com this weekend smiling favorably on a Wisconsin jury who was actually doing something while the rest of the nation simply debated. But what feat of prestidigitation did this group of citizens manage? Did they team up with O.J. and finally find the real killers? Has Bigfoot been located at long last? No… it turns out that they managed to find a gun dealer responsible in a civil trial for the damage caused by a person who illegally purchased a weapon from a straw purchaser who fraudulently bought it from the dealer. Even though authorized gun dealers are specifically protected from such baseless accusations under federal law, justice has apparently been served, citizens!

While the candidates debated, a jury decided.

Despite a federal immunity statute for gun manufacturers and sellers, Wisconsin jurors held accountable the seller of a gun used to shoot two policemen, just as the Democratic presidential candidates began to argue about immunity for the firearms industry…

Some 1,789 miles away from Las Vegas on the same day, a Milwaukee jury did something that Congress made nearly impossible a decade ago: It invoked civil responsibility for an enabler of gun violence and awarded nearly $6 million in damages. But in so doing, it had to shoehorn its rationale into the law to which Sanders and Clinton had referred. “These are really, really tight windows,” the lawyer who circumvented the federal immunity told me.

Oh, it’s a very tight window indeed. The case in question involved Julius Burton, who in 2009 shot two Milwaukee police officers in the head from a few feet away without either of them having even drawn their weapons. By some miracle from God neither of the officers died (though one lost an eye) and Burton is now serving 80 years in the crowbar motel. But the attorneys in this case didn’t want to talk about Burton. Nor did they wish to talk about Burton’s friend Jacob Collins, the man who illegally bught Burton his handgun. They wanted to talk about Badger Guns… the store where Collins (who received only two years in jail) managed to bungle his way through filling out all of the required forms and legally purchase the weapon.

When you look at the story of the sale it’s easy to find fault from the layman’s perspective. Collins was a bumbler who incorrectly filled out his own address on the first try and originally answered “no” as to whether he was buying the gun for himself. But in the end he did manage to gets his forms correct and he had no criminal record. (No doubt why Burton wanted him to buy it.)

At that point, what was the gun shop to do? Deny the sale on a suspicion about whether or not the guy was up to no good or just bad at filling out forms? There is a real criminal in this case aside from Burton, but it was not the store employee who completed the background check and the sale. It was Jacob Collins. If you want to point fingers at the system, let’s figure out why he only got two years in jail for doing something that’s already clearly illegal.

Nobody at Badger Guns pulled the trigger on those cops. And none of their employees sold the weapon to someone who couldn’t pass a background check. The responsibility here is with the criminals, not the merchant. Hopefully this will be turned over on appeal.