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West Virginia store pays $1 million to shooting victims

For those of you anxiously awaiting our first featured discussion between editor Walter Olson and GMU Law's Michael Krauss on the propriety of federal legislation to stop gun lawsuits, a new tidbit this week from West Virginia, where Kanawha County Circuit Judge Irene Berger certified a $1 million settlement between a pawn shop that sold a gun to a woman with no criminal record and two police officers shot in a gun battle with a criminal who ultimately used the weapon.

The original purchaser of the gun, Tammi Lea Songer, and James Gray, the convicted felon to whom she delivered the gun (Gray in turn sold the weapon to others, including the felon who was actually involved in the shooting), both served time for their crimes. How were they caught? Well, it seems that the managers of the pawn shop "became suspicious because of the number of weapons Songer bought [12] and contacted the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. The agency and the store set up a sting operation in which ATF officers dressed as store clerks, and Songer was arrested when she returned to buy guns again . . . ." So, the moral of this story is that a store that actually goes to the ATF to report a suspicious sale, as this store did the very next day, makes itself a target for lawsuits.

Of course, the lawyers' quest for cash does not end here. Outstanding suits remain against Sturm, Ruger, the gun manufacturer, and Acusport, an Ohio distributor who presumably initially acquired the gun from Ruger and resold it. For my take on such suits, see my National Review Online column from last November. See also our prior discussions here, here, and here.

Will the gun manufacturer and distributor lawsuits go anywhere? Who knows, but just remember: Kanawha County, West Virginia, is one of the American Tort Reform Association's "judicial hellholes" . . .

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Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.