With the backing of the Brady Campaign, the families of four firefighters shot--two fatally--while responding to a fire in West Webster, New York on Christmas Eve 2012 are suing the sporting goods chain Gander Mountain, for selling the gun used. The killer murdered his sister, then set fire to his own home in order to lure the firefighters into range of his ambush, after which he shot and killed himself.
Gander Mountain did not sell the guns to the killer. He, as a convicted felon, could not legally purchase firearms, and would not have passed the mandatory background check. Instead, he recruited his neighbor Dawn Nguyen to purchase a shotgun (apparently not used in the ambush) and a rifle on his behalf, filling out the ATF Form 4473 as the purchaser. That is itself a federal felony, and Nguyen faces prison time for her role. From the Star Tribune:
The families of four New York state firefighters are suing St. Paul-based Gander Mountain, alleging that the retailer could have prevented a “straw buyer” from purchasing a rifle used in a deadly Christmas Eve 2012 ambush.
The suit, which has the support of prominent gun control advocates, said the rifle used in the bloody predawn incident should never have been sold to a woman who came to a Rochester, N.Y., store in June 2010 with the eventual shooter at her side.
Right away, we can see that not only is Gander Mountain apparently expected to read the minds of prospective gun buyers, they are also evidently expected to look two and a half years into the future. Can we be certain that even the killer knew at that point about the atrocity he would eventually commit?
The killer's previous felony, by the way, was particularly gruesome. He murdered his own 92-year-old grandmother--by bludgeoning her to death with a hammer. Even that was not enough to prevent him from being paroled after 17 years in prison. From the Huffington Post:
Well-spoken, well-behaved and intelligent, his demeanor was praised by four straight parole boards that nevertheless denied him parole, worried that bludgeoning his 92-year-old grandmother with a hammer showed a violent streak that could explode again.
They eventually overcame that worry, obviously, and with obvious results. Lucky for them that they are not subject to lawsuits.
So how should Gander Mountain have known that Nguyen was a "straw purchaser," and stopped the sale? The Brady Campaign explains in their press release:
The sale of multiple firearms in one purchase, more than one person 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 complaint alleges that Gander Mountain knew or should have known of these indicators, knew or should have known that Nguyen was conducting an illegal "straw purchase," and should have taken steps to confirm that Spengler was the purchaser and intended user of the guns.
So the purchase of more than one firearm at a time is grounds for suspicion? Why? Apparently, outfitting oneself for a 3-Gun match is suspect activity now. And what is the gun dealer supposed to do when the purchaser indicates a desire to buy two guns at a time--tell her to beat it? The fact that Nguyen was accompanied is supposedly another red flag. Is the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives somehow unaware that many shooters, particularly inexperienced ones, like to bring a trusted, experienced shooter friend along to help choose the gun?
And then there's the suspicion attendant to using cash for the purchase. Again, why? The store runs an FBI-administered criminal background check, and keeps a permanent record of the sale--it's not as if the use of cash indicates an attempt at anonymity (and, this correspondent would argue, even if it were such an indicator, there are plenty of legitimate reasons to prefer to purchase guns anonymously--particularly in confiscation-happy New York).
But perhaps the most interesting aspect of the supposedly "suspicious" nature of cash purchases is related to the recent development of the Obama administration's Department of "Justice" attempting to squeeze gun dealers by scaring banks and credit card companies away from doing business with them.
So gun dealers risk lawsuits if they accept cash for gun purchases (despite cash being defined by law as legal tender)--and they are systematically being "choked" off from banking and credit. What are they supposed to take as payment--gold bullion?