The Brady Center won one this afternoon in Milwaukee. A jury decided in favor of the plaintiffs and against Badger Guns in a lawsuit that was supported by the Brady Center. The lawsuit accused Badger Guns of being negligent for allowing a straw purchase. The firearm purchased was later used to shoot two Milwaukee police officers. The jury awarded the police officers $5 million.
The high-profile case, only the second of its kind nationwide, went to the jury of eight women and four men late Monday afternoon and deliberations continued Tuesday. They deliberated for nine hours.
Officer Bryan Norberg and former Officer Graham Kunisch were shot by Julius Burton during a routine stop on Milwaukee’s near southside in June 2009. A month earlier, Jacob Collins bought the gun at Badger Guns for Burton, who was too young to buy a handgun from a store. Burton paid Collins $60. Burton is serving 80 years while Collins already finished his two years in federal prison.
Norberg and Kunisch allege in their 2010 suit that Badger Guns, its predecessor, Badger Outdoors, and the owners of both broke the law, were negligent in sales practices and conspired to keep the operation going when federal regulators recommended revoking the license.
The case is the second to make it to trial since a federal law passed granting immunity to gun dealers and manufacturers. The law has exceptions, including allowing plaintiffs to sue if they can show evidence of illegal gun sales. The first such case to go to trial ended in victory for an Alaskan gun store his summer.
The conspiracy allegation by Kunisch and Norberg is aimed at how the store went from being Badger Outdoors to Badger Guns in 2007.
Badger Guns lost its FFL in 2011 for reasons unrelated to this straw purchase.
According to a report on the case by Pierre Thomas of ABC News, the defendants do plan to appeal the verdict.
Brady Center attorneys Jonathan Lowy and Alla Lefkowitz had been forced to withdraw from this case for violating Wisconsin Supreme Court rules of conduct for attorneys.
UPDATE: A commenter on Facebook, Anthony aka The Packetman, pointed out quite correctly that the BATFE would have brought criminal charges against the owners of Badger Guns if they thought they had a winnable case. They didn’t.
It should also be pointed out that the standard of proof in a civil trial is much less than in a criminal trial. It only requires a preponderance of the evidence to win unlike in criminal cases which requires beyond a reasonable doubt.