The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence
For Immediate Release: December 23, 2014
Contact: Jonathan Hutson, Jhutson [at] bradymail [dot] org
Rochester, NY – West Webster, NY firefighters and their families can proceed in their case against the seller of the guns used to shoot them and their loved ones on Christmas Eve 2012, a New York trial court judge ruled.
Monroe County Supreme Court Judge J. Scott Odorisi 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,” said Jonathan Lowy, Director of the Legal Action Project at the Brady Center. “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 by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and Arnold & Porter LLP, 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, the perpetrator of the Christmas Eve shootings.
According to the complaint, Spengler, a convicted felon, accompanied Nguyen to the store, selected the Bushmaster and a Mossberg shotgun, and watched as she completed the purchase forms and paid $1,400 in cash for the guns. Two years later, Spengler used the Bushmaster to shoot and kill firefighters Michael Chiapperini, 43, and Tomasz Kaczowka, 19, and injure Joseph Hofstetter, 33, and Theodore Scardino, 48.
Judge Odorisi states in his opinion in favor of the plaintiffs, “Gander submits that it cannot be strictly liable for Spengler's actions of which it had no special knowledge. This Court disagrees."
“We appreciate the court’s considered decision and the opportunity to present the facts of this case to a jury now that Gander Mountain’s efforts to dismiss the case have been defeated,” said Michael Schissel of Arnold & Porter LLP. The sale of multiple firearms in one purchase, multiple people entering the store together, and purchases made in cash are indicators of a possible straw purchase, according to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). The suit alleges that based on the presence of these factors, a reasonable and law-abiding gun seller would have questioned Nguyen to determine whether she was the intended user of the firearms, and would not have completed the sale.
The families’ case will now enter discovery. A trial date has not been set.
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