Jan 29, 2013
Washington, DC - On Wednesday, January 30, 2013 at 9 a.m., the Supreme Court of Kansas in Topeka, Kansas will hear arguments in a case deciding whether a gun seller can be held liable for supplying a violent, dangerous felon and spousal abuser a gun, which was used hours later by the felon to kill his own 8 year old son. A lawsuit brought by Elizabeth Shirley, the mother of 8 year old Zeus Graham, alleges that the gun dealer illegally sold Graham a gun in a straw purchase after being informed that he was a felon. The argument will be webcast at http://live.kscourts.org/live.php.
Jonathan Lowy, Director of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence’s Legal Action Project, will argue that the dealer, Baxter Springs Gun & Pawn Shop, and its owners Joe and Patsy George, may be held liable for negligence, and are not immune from liability under the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. An Appeals court in New York recently reversed the dismissal of a lawsuit against a gun manufacturer, distributor and dealer in another case brought by the Brady Center's Legal Action Project. The Supreme Court of Alaska is considering reversing the dismissal of another Brady Center lawsuit against a dealer in a case argued in 2012. Both cases were argued by Mr. Lowy.
“Most gun dealers do their best to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, but when the few bad apples choose to profit by supplying criminals, innocent families and children pay the price,” said Jonathan Lowy, Director of the Brady Center’s Legal Action Project. “Gun dealers who recklessly supply criminals should be held accountable to innocent victims of their misconduct, just like any other irresponsible business.”
After a trial judge dismissed Shirley's lawsuit, the Court of Appeals of Kansas reversed on one count, holding that the Georges could be liable for negligently entrusting the gun to Russell Graham, but not under simple negligence or negligence per se theories. The Supreme Court will consider whether the gun dealer can be held liable under those theories.
The lawsuit alleges that Graham told the gun dealer he was a felon, after which the dealer sold the gun to his grandmother as a “straw purchaser.” Mere hours later, Graham used the gun to shoot his son and then himself to death. The lawsuit also alleges that the Georges tried to conceal evidence of their crime by lying to law enforcement and by throwing away the videotaped evidence of the sale, alleging it had been “eaten” by the machine.
James R. Shetlar, of the Law Offices of James R. Shetlar, Overland Park, Kansas, is co-counsel for Elizabeth Shirley.
The argument will be held at 9 a.m., at the Kansas Supreme Court, 301 SW 10th Avenue, Topeka, Kansas 66612-1507.
The Brady Campaign is the nation's largest citizens' lobby to prevent gun violence. We represent the voice of the overwhelming majority of Americans who are tired of living with the constant tragedy of gun violence and are in favor of strong laws and policies that will save lives. We are the light that exposes politicians who are putting the American people at risk, empowering the American people to hold them accountable for decisions and actions that undermine public safety.
We are driven by the focused vision of a nation where all Americans are safe at home, at work, at school, and in our communities.
Dan Gross is the President of the Brady Campaign and the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. A photo and more information about Dan Gross is available here.