A jury on Tuesday found that a Milwaukee gun shop should pay nearly $6 million to two police officers who were wounded with a firearm that was sold to a purchaser who clearly planned to pass it on to someone illegally.
The Associated Press reported that the jury found Badger Guns negligent for selling a gun that was later used to shoot Milwaukee police officers Bryan Norberg and Graham Kunisch in 2009. Attorneys for the officers had argued that the gun shop should have recognized the sale as being suspicious.
The case had raised questions about the legal liability of gun stores when the firearms they sell are used in crimes. A 2005 federal law offered protection to gun shops under most circumstances from civil lawsuits. However, earlier this month, Hillary Clinton called for a repeal of the act as part of a series of gun control proposals in the wake of a deadly mass shooting at an Oregon community college.
In the Milwaukee case, 18-year-old Julius Burton — too young to legally purchase a handgun — paid a 21-year-old acquaintance to go with him to Badger Guns and fill out paperwork as the buyer. The two young men's behavior, as well as improperly marked forms, should have tipped off the clerk that the sale was a "straw purchase," the officers' attorney said.
One Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms study found that straw purchases were the most typical way guns are illegally trafficked.
The teen went on to use the gun to shoot the two officers after they stopped him for riding his bike on a sidewalk. The shooting left them with lasting injuries, and Norberg said the wounds forced him to retire.
Burton is serving an 80-year prison sentence for attempted murder.
Claudia Koerner is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
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