THE BRADY CENTER TO PREVENT GUN VIOLENCE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 16, 2014
Contact: Jennifer Fuson
jfuson [at] bradymail [dot] org
Brady Center Sues Florida Gun Dealer Lock N Load for
Selling Straw Purchased Gun Used in Double Homicide
Lawsuit is Part of National Campaign against Irresponsible “Bad Apple” Gun Dealers
Tampa, Fla. – Local gun dealer Lock N Load, the seller of the gun and ammunition a teenager used to murder his mother and her boyfriend, is liable for their deaths, according to a lawsuit filed today for the families of the victims by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and White & Case LLP, which are providing pro bono counsel. The lawsuit alleges Lock N Load of Oldsmar, Florida had reason to know that the sale of the gun used in the murder was a straw purchase.
“Two people lost their lives because a dangerous teenager was able to arm himself through a straw purchase that never should have happened,” said Jonathan Lowy, Director of the Brady Center’s Legal Action Project and co-counsel for the plaintiffs. “Most gun dealers are responsible business people who would never engage in straw sales of firearms, but unfortunately a few ‘bad apple’ dealers endanger our communities by putting profits over the lives of people, and choosing to supply the criminal gun market.”
The lawsuit is the second filed in the past five weeks as part of Brady’s national campaign to stop “bad apple” gun dealers, the roughly five percent of gun dealers that supply nearly all of the guns used in crimes across the nation. The campaign aims to use legal action and public pressure to stop the flow of guns from irresponsible dealers to criminals and dangerous people.
“‘Bad apple’ gun dealers must be held accountable for their irresponsible sales practices in order to make our communities safer,” added Lowy. “We want to send a message to the gun industry that they need to clean up their business practices, or they will be held accountable for the damage they cause.”
According to the lawsuit, Benjamin Bishop of Oldsmar, Florida obtained a shotgun from Lock N Load through a straw purchase carried out by a friend in 2012. Bishop, who suffers from schizophrenia and had a history of drug abuse, attempted to buy the shotgun but was denied because he had a criminal record. The lawsuit alleges that the dealer later sold the gun to Bishop’s friend when the two teens returned to the store, and that Bishop returned a third time and was sold ammunition, despite the store’s knowledge of his criminal record.
In 2012, Bishop used the shotgun and ammunition to kill his mother Imari Shibata and her boyfriend Kelley Allen.
The lawsuit alleges that Lock N Load failed to take reasonable steps to determine whether Bishop’s friend was the actual purchaser of the shotgun, and that it was foreseeable that providing a gun to a straw purchaser, and ammunition to a prohibited purchaser, was likely to lead to death or injury.
The plaintiffs are represented by Jonathan Lowy, Alla Lefkowitz and Kelly Sampson of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence Legal Action Project in Washington, D.C., and Evan Goldenberg and Adam Schwartzbaum of White & Case LLP in Miami, Florida. The suit was filed in the Circuit Court of the Sixth Judicial Circuit in Pinellas County, Florida.
For 25 years the Brady Center’s Legal Action Project has brought lawsuits against gun dealers that have forced them to change the way they sell guns, and forced others out of business. Brady’s new campaign against “bad apple” dealers intensifies and expands efforts to reform the worst dealers in the gun industry by increasing legal actions to hold the “bad apples” accountable in court.
The Brady Center has brought numerous cases in Florida, including a pending lawsuit against Florida’s gag rule that prevents doctors from discussing firearms with patients; a lawsuit on behalf of the widow of school teacher Barry Grunow, who was shot and killed by a student, which won a $24 million verdict, later reversed in part on appeal; and a past lawsuit on behalf of Miami-Dade County against the firearms industry.
A copy of the complaint is available online.
The mission of the Brady organization is to create a safer America for all of us that will lead to a dramatic reduction in gun deaths and injuries. For more insight on gun violence prevention, follow us on Facebook at the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and Twitter @BradyBuzz.