For Immediate Release - July 22, 2013 - Contact: Media [at] BradyNetwork [dot] org
(Washington, D.C.) – On Friday, July 19, 2013, the Kansas Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling in the case Shirley v. Glass (Case No. 102570), finding that gun dealers must use the highest standard of care when selling weapons, and that dealers can be held liable for violating gun laws under negligence per se. Both rulings were first-of-their kind decisions in the state of Kansas.
Jonathan Lowy, Director of the Legal Action Project at the Brady Center, argued the case and praised the ruling as a “landmark victory that will help victims of gun violence in Kansas and across the country.” “Most gun dealers do their best to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, but the bad apples who supply felons with straw purchases should be held accountable to victims,” said Lowy. “This ruling will remove the profit incentive for arming criminals, and make sure that innocent victims of gun violence aren’t the only ones who pay the cost of irresponsible gun sales.”
The suit was filed by Elizabeth Shirley, whose son Zeus was murdered by her estranged husband Russell Graham, against Baxter Springs Gun and Pawn Shop in Baxter Springs, KS, where Graham obtained the murder weapon in a straw purchase earlier that day. Graham’s grandmother completed the sale of the gun after Graham informed the dealer he was a felon, so was ineligible to purchase the weapon himself.
Shirley’s case was initially dismissed by a trial court judge whose decision relied on a Kansas appeals case that held that a gun dealer was not liable for supplying a dangerous individual with a firearm. Represented by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence’s Legal Action Project, Shirley appealed the decision to the Kansas Court of Appeals, which reversed the lower court’s holding and found that the dealer could be liable for negligently entrusting the gun to Graham.
Although the Court had found that Shirley’s case could proceed, Shirley appealed decisions that the dealer could not be liable for violating gun laws, and was not required to exercise the highest degree of care in its sales. The Kansas Supreme Court reversed those two rulings by the Appeals Court in its Friday decision.
Shirley’s case now returns to Cherokee County District Court. A schedule has not been set. James R. Shetlar and Melanie Caro, of the Law Offices of James R. Shetlar, Overland Park, Kansas, is co-counsel for Elizabeth Shirley with the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence Legal Action Project.
The mission of the Brady organization is to create a safer America for all of us that will lead to the dramatic reduction in gun deaths and injuries that we all seek.