Beyond the Gun Trace: Holding ‘Bad Apple’ Gun Dealers Accountable | Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence

Beyond the Gun Trace: Holding ‘Bad Apple’ Gun Dealers Accountable

The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence

For Immediate Release: December 24, 2014
Contact: Jonathan Hutson, Jhutson [at] bradymail [dot] org 

Statement by Jonathan Lowy, Director of the Legal Action Project at the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, on Brady’s Campaign to Hold Accountable ‘Bad Apple’ Gun Dealers Like the One that Sold the Weapon Used to Kill Two New York Police Officers

WASHINGTON, DC – New York City police officials have stated that two of their officers, Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, were recently shot and killed by Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who then fatally shot himself. Baltimore County investigators believe that Brinsley used the same handgun to shoot his ex-girlfriend in Owings Mills, Maryland. This is a man who should never have gotten a gun, and could not legally buy a gun. The gun came from a “bad apple” gun dealer with a long track record of selling crime guns.

About 86% of gun dealers are responsible business owners who sell no crime guns, but about 5% of dealers sell approximately 90 percent of crime guns. The horrific killing of these brave officers shows why Brady is focused on stopping “bad apple” gun dealers.

We know that Brinsley could not have passed a Brady background check because he had multiple felony convictions, including a felony theft charge in 2008, to which he pled guilty. And in 2011, he was convicted on multiple felony charges for firing a bullet into a woman’s car, using a stolen handgun.

The gun Brinsley reportedly used to killed the officers and himself was sold in a legally traceable transaction in 1996 by a notorious "bad apple" gun dealer -- the Arrowhead Pawn Shop of Jonesboro, Georgia, outside Atlanta -- to a man who claims he gave it to his cousin. We do not know how or when the gun made its way into Brinsley’s hands or if it has been used in other crimes. But we do know that since the bipartisan passage of the Brady Bill, Brady background checks have blocked 2.4 million attempted purchases by prohibited persons -- including felons, domestic abusers, and people adjudicated as mentally ill.

Brady has designated the Arrowhead Pawn Shop as a "bad apple" gun dealer because of the large number of crime guns traced back to them. In 2009, Arrowhead Pawn & Gun Shop topped the list of out-of-state sources of firearms seized by police in New York City. And as recently as 2010, according to public records obtained by the Washington Post, Arrowhead Pawn & Gun ranked fifth in the nation as a source of crime guns, with at least 1,720 traces.

For 25 years, the Brady Center has represented victims of gun violence, including many police officers shot, and sometimes killed, with guns sold by “bad apple” gun dealers. Last year, Brady settled a lawsuit brought for the family of a Chicago police officer who was shot and killed with a gun trafficked from a gun dealer in Mississippi. As a result, the dealer has agreed to several significant reforms which will prevent sales of crime guns. Brady has also represented law enforcement officers from New Jersey, New York, Texas, North Carolina, Virginia, and California.

And that is why the Brady Campaign has a two-pronged approach to reform or shut down "bad apple" gun dealers. First, we organize protests by victims, survivors, and other community activists right in front of their stores, and ask them to adopt Brady’s gun dealer Code of Conduct. And second, Brady's Legal Action Project provides pro bono representation to victims of gun violence and their families against negligent gun dealers, in partnership with leading law firms across the country.

And we note that December 24 marks the tragic, two-year anniversary of the ambush attack of four volunteer firefighters -- including one full-time police officer -- in Webster, New York. On December 23, a New York trial court judge ruled that those gun violence victims and their families can proceed in their case, brought on their behalf by Brady and by Arnold & Porter LLP, against the seller of the guns used to shoot them and their loved ones on Christmas Eve 2012.

Monroe County, New York, Supreme Court Judge J. Scott Odorisi has rejected gun retailer Gander Mountain’s motion to dismiss the case, the second filed by the defendants after their attempt to move the case to federal court was defeated. While most gun dealers take care to not arm dangerous people, the few who put profits over people’s safety need to be held accountable. These firefighters and their families want to spare other families the tragedies they’ve suffered as a result of an irresponsible gun seller. We look forward to proving our case in court.

The lawsuit, filed in May 2014, alleges that Gander Mountain knew or should have known that the 2010 purchase of a Bushmaster assault rifle by 22-year-old Dawn Nguyen was in fact a straw purchase for 61-year-old William Spengler, a convicted murderer and the perpetrator of the Christmas Eve 2012 shootings.

To learn more about Brady’s ‘Bad Apple’ Gun Dealer Campaign, please visit:


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