John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo killed seventeen people and injured seven on a nine-month crime spree in 2002, including three weeks of sniper shootings in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. in October that killed ten and wounded three. The snipers had obtained their gun, a Bushmaster XM-15, from Bull’s Eye Shooter Supply, a gun store run in such a grossly negligent manner that guns routinely left the store without a record of sale. Bull’s Eye claimed that it had no record of selling the snipers’ XM-15 when federal agents requested its sale documents.
On January 16, 2003, the Legal Action Project filed suit against the snipers, Bull’s Eye, and Bushmaster, alleging that the store was responsible for the shootings due to its grossly negligent sales practices that allowed the shooters to acquire the weapon, and that Bushmaster was responsible for continuing to supply the store despite years of audits by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms that found egregious violations. The suit also claimed that the defendants created a public nuisance by distributing and selling guns in such a grossly negligent manner.
After the trial court held that the dealer and manufacturer could be held liable for the shootings, the parties agreed to a settlement in a pre-trial mediation session: Bull’s Eye would pay $2 million to the families, and Bushmaster would pay $568,000 out of its insurance policy. As part of the settlement, Bushmaster agreed to reform its distribution practices, and stated that it supported laws requiring licensing and ATF monitoring for firearms dealers. ATF later revoked Bull’s Eye’s license to sell guns.