Gun Shop Liable for Cop Shooting, $5 Million Awarded by Jury

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By Ephrat Livni, Esq. on October 15, 2015 9:00 AM

Weapons dealer Badger Guns was found liable for the shooting of two police officers. Relying on an exception to a federal law -- which generally does not hold gun shops liable for weapons used in crime -- a Milwaukee jury awarded a $5 million judgment for the officers.

Weapons dealers are not liable for guns sold that are then used to commit crimes. But this case was based on a carve-out that says if the seller knew or should have known the guns were being used to commit crimes it can be held responsible for the sale.

Six Officers Injured by Badger's Guns in 20 Months

The officers, Brian Norberg and Graham Kunisch, were out on their first night of patrol when they were both shot in the head by Julius Burton. He testified from prison that Badger Guns was the go-to place for illegal weapon purchases in Milwaukee.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel investigated the gun shop and reported that Norberg and Kunisch were just two of six officers wounded with weapons purchased illegally from Badger in a 20-month period. The gun shop's license was also under review for numerous violations in 2009 when Kunisch and Norberg were shot.

Burton, who was 18 when he committed the crime, purchased the gun from Badger using a straw man because he was under 21. The shooter is serving an 80-year prison sentence.

Now, Norberg continues to work as a police officer. Kunisch, however, lost an eye and suffered some brain damage. He testified that he has undergone surgeries and personality changes that prevent him from returning to duty. He is on duty-disability retirement.

More Cases to Come

There are reportedly more such cases to come. On the court's docket in May, a similar lawsuit also brought by two Milwaukee police officers injured in the line of duty.

The suit was brought by the officers with the support of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. In a statement, the campaign's president, Dan Gross, said, "This case should serve as a warning to all gun dealers who resort to irresponsible and unsafe business practices ... With 89 people dying every day from guns, Americans have had enough of the special rules that make gun companies richer and place ordinary people in danger of being shot and killed."

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