It’s horrible what these New York families have had to go through in the loss of their loved ones, but now the blame for what happened is being placed on Gander Mountain in a law suit that condemns the company for selling a gun to a woman who bought it for someone else.
You may remember the story from Christmas Eve 2012 in which William Spengler shot his sister and then set the home on fire. When 1st responders showed up on the scene to put out the fire Spengler began shooting at firefighters with a semi-automatic rifle. Two firefighters were killed and two others were injured before Spengler shot himself.
Because of a previous violent history in which Spengler killed his 92-year-old grandmother with a hammer, he was not allowed to own or purchase a firearm. He would not be able to pass a background check at any gun retailer and so he enlisted the help of his neighbor.
His neighbor, Dawn Nguyen, bought the rifle for him at a Gander Mountain, which is now the company in the cross-hairs of the lawsuit.
According to the Star Tribune the families involved in the lawsuit are claiming that the loss of life would have been prohibited if the store had acted responsibly,
The suit spells out that gun buyer Dawn Nguyen entered Gander Mountain with Spengler, who was prohibited from owning firearms after a conviction for killing his 92-year-old grandmother with a hammer. Nguyen, Spengler’s neighbor, filled out the required state and federal forms identifying herself as the purchaser and paid $1,425 in cash for a semi-automatic rifle and a shotgun.
Gander Mountain’s staff should have known that the purchase was being made for someone who was barred from possessing firearms, the suit continued, pointing out that the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has warned that indicators of a straw purchase include multiple firearms being bought in one transaction, more than one person entering the store together and purchases made with cash.
Nguyen, now 24, was convicted in April of falsifying a firearms form when she bought the guns. She was sentenced Monday to at least 16 months in prison. She and Spengler’s estate are named as co-defendants in the suit.
The gun control lobby groups have took it upon themselves to get involved in this case, and it shouldn’t be too surprising that the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence is part of the legal team for the families in this suit.
“Gun dealers have a responsibility to ensure they are selling guns to people legally entitled to purchase them,” said Jonathan Lowy, director of the Brady Center’s Legal Action Project, which has been steadily filing suits such as these against gun sellers across the country. “Just like a bar has a responsibility not to sell alcohol to minors, Gander Mountain has a responsibility not to sell firearms to convicted criminals.”
The only problem with his logic is that the gun was sold to someone who legally could own it. And a bar is not responsible if someone of age buys a drink and then later on gives it to someone else.
The families are seeking punitive and compensatory damages in addition to additional training to Gander Mountain employees to prohibit straw purchases.
Gander Mountain is fighting the suit and so far it looks like the company has the law on its side.
“We will vigorously defend ourselves in this matter,” spokesman Jess Myers said, a spokesperson for Gander Mountain.
Shelley Leeson, who heads the Twin Cities Gun Owners & Carry Forum, said trying to hold Gander responsible for the incident was “bogus.” She accused the advocates behind the suit of “playing the emotions of the victims’ families to further their gun control agenda to punish manufacturers and retailers.”
She added that it appears Gander Mountain followed the legally required procedures for the sale and “cannot be held responsible for second-guessing the intentions or future actions of every purchaser.”
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