Cheaper Than Dirt! customers and Shooter’s Log readers should know that the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence is trying to shut down online ammunition and firearms accessories sales by hanging the actions of an alleged killer on a handful of businesses.
Websites that supplied Aurora movie theater shooter James Holmes with ammunition, body armor, tear gas and other equipment used in his assault were negligent, according to a lawsuit announced last week by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and Arnold & Porter LLP.
The lawsuit, which was filed in Colorado’s Arapahoe County District Court, seeks injunctions requiring the defendants to reform their business practices. Of course, none of the businesses have been charged with criminal wrongdoing.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Sandy and Lonnie Phillips, whose daughter Jessica Ghawi was shot and killed in the Aurora movie theater shooting in 2012. The suit alleges that the websites negligently supplied Holmes with the arsenal he used to kill 12 people and wound at least 58 others.
The lawsuit names Lucky Gunner (BulkAmmo.com), which allegedly sold Holmes over 4,000 rounds of ammunition; The Sportman’s Guide, which allegedly sold Holmes a 100-round drum ammunition magazine and 700 rounds; BulletProofBodyArmorHQ.com, which allegedly sold Holmes multiple pieces of body armor; and BTP Arms, which allegedly sold him two canisters of tear gas, as defendants.
This is just the latest salvo by the Brady Campaign to slip gun and ammunition sales prohibitions through the back door of the legal system, since the campaign’s legislative efforts at the federal and state levels have largely stalled.
Make no mistake about it, Brady’s goals with this lawsuit are much grander than they might appear, as Jonathan Lowy, director of the Brady Center’s Legal Action Project and co-counsel for Sandy and Lonnie Phillips, said in a statement.
“A crazed, homicidal killer should not be able to amass a military arsenal, without showing his face or answering a single question, with the simple click of a mouse,” said Lowy. “If businesses choose to sell military-grade equipment online, they must screen purchasers to prevent arming people like James Holmes. Sandy and Lonnie Phillips have brought this lawsuit to make sellers of lethal arms and military equipment use reasonable care. ”
“Two years ago when our daughter Jessica was murdered, and we first heard the details of the massacre, I asked my husband: ‘How can anyone order over 4,000 rounds of ammunition without raising any red flags? Why weren’t any questions asked of the person who bought all of this ammunition?” said Sandy Phillips. “As gun owners, parents, and citizens of this country, we hope that our lawsuit will spare other families the tragedy that we have gone through after the death of our beautiful daughter.”
The complaint alleges that each of the online businesses failed to use reasonable safeguards to prevent dangerous people like James Holmes from obtaining high-capacity ammunition magazines, thousands of rounds of ammunition, body armor and tear gas used in his assault. Business practices that disregard these well-known risks and allow people like Holmes to purchase such products without any screening are unreasonably dangerous and create a public nuisance, according to the complaint.
But as Cheaper Than Dirt! customers know, there is not a federal law requiring background checks on ammunition sales. Also, Holmes passed background checks when he purchased four firearms, so it’s difficult to see how the online businesses will be held liable for his later actions that they couldn’t reasonably have foreseen.
Also, University of Colorado campus police didn’t stop Holmes, despite being warned about his mental state by Holmes’ psychiatrist, Dr. Lynne Fenton.