Via the Associated Press, we learn that juries can and will hold irresponsible gun dealers accountable. Two police officers sued the gun store that sold weapons to their attackers and received a $6 million judgment:

The gun shop’s defense lawyers denied wrongdoing and said the owner, Adam Allan, couldn’t be held financially responsible for crimes connected to a weapon sold at his shop. Badger Guns, previously known as Badger Outdoors, has since closed and been replaced by a gun shop called Brew City Shooters Supply. All three entities have been run by Allan family members.

Authorities have said more than 500 firearms recovered from crime scenes had been traced back to Badger Guns and Badger Outdoors, making it the “No. 1 crime gun dealer in America,” according to a 2005 charging document from an unrelated federal case. A former federal agent has also said the shop had failed to take necessary precautions to prevent straw purchases.

By promising to overturn it, Hillary Clinton has brought some attention to the George W. Bush-era federal law that the Allans tried to use as a shield against liability for their incredible negligence that led to so many gun crimes. For the first time that I can remember, Democrats on the presidential trail aren’t running from gun control issues, and the issue is clearly an electoral winner. At Huffington Post, Mike Weisser thinks the verdict against the Allans shows that an incremental approach at the local level might usurp the power of the gun lobby at long last:

When it comes to social issues, the Republicans talk big and act small. And I think this is exactly what will happen going forward in the debate over guns. Because once Democratic politicians realize that the NRA can’t stop background checks at the state level or lawsuits against guys who sell guns, you’ll see gun control inexorably moving forward in state after state. Remember that 37 states already declared gay marriage lawful before the SCOTUS agreed.

It’s nice to see the politics of the gun issue shifting, and I hope the Allans are bankrupted by their victims, but it seems to me that their store ought to be treated like a crime scene rather than a legitimate business. At Gawker, Alex Pareene recently suggested that gun control advocates need to stop being squeamish and borrow the tactics of the anti-abortion movement if they truly want sweeping change.

It also means going all-in on gore. It means waving gruesome photos of dead children in the faces of Republican legislators, gun store owners, and gun manufacturers. This is where the conservatives shine. Good liberals are too squeamish to look past the police tape. They worry that if they focus, up close and without flinching, on the goriest details of the carnage, it’ll glorify violence, or worse, inspire future killers. Maybe, but it’ll also scare the shit out of future killers’ mothers before they fill their houses with guns, to feel safe.

[…] If the gun control movement actually, really wants to change America’s gun culture, they will have to put the least reasonable and the least accommodating activists they can find in charge of directing the entire movement. In order to achieve a realistic outcome, the anti-gun movement needs to fight, passionately and vociferously, for an unrealistic goal. Don’t campaign to expand background checks. Fight like hell to ban all private gun sales, and watch as expanded background checks becomes a politically palatable compromise. Keep fighting, and eventually “I support banning handgun ownership for everyone besides childless victims of domestic assault” becomes the politically palatable compromise position.

Being quite familiar with the rhetorical and regulatory approach that has made abortion so very hard to get, it strikes me that there’s something to this idea. These days, women have an easier time buying a gun in America than obtaining a safe, clinical abortion, and that fact points to just how effective the forced-birth activists’ two-pronged strategy has been at undermining an established civil right. Of course, the National Rifle Association has the Second Amendment; by conveniently eliding the part about a “well regulated militia,” and lobbying against even the most commonsense restrictions on gun sales, the NRA has ensured that outlaws have guns, creating fear that drives gun sales (and profits) even higher. If the Allans had killed hundreds of fetuses instead of the already-born, they would be under daily siege by angry people, and every customer would receive shame and humiliation from their arrival to the front door. The ‘pro-life’ lobby has tremendous organizing power in state legislatures; I have personally seen them fill up the Alabama state house with busloads of people to lobby for the newest slate of anti-abortion legislation, buttonholing lawmakers and holding their feet to the fire, always getting what they want. These are the gun control activists that Pareene says we need, and if he is right then Brew City Shooters Supply is exactly where they ought to start.

Whereas abortion impacts no one other than the patient, this one store has impacted hundreds of families with violence. Adam Allan is the Kermit Gosnell of gun sales. It would be easy for dedicated gun control activists in the Milwaukee area to make an example of this store, as the signs and slogans practically write themselves, and it could serve as a model for a new kind of gun control movement.

  • John Butler

    There are several problems with using the anti abortion approach to gun control. The biggest is that States inclined to enact strict gun control legislation already have. Owning and carrying a gun my be a constitutional right, just as abortion access is, but in states like New Jersey, Illinois, California and New York, numerous obstacles to owning, much less carrying a gun in public, exist. In the state of New Jersey hand gun carry permits exist but are as rare as unicorn farts. They are only issued to the politically connected. (Usually to people in the sanitation industry) At the moment if you live in a blue state, getting an abortion is probably easier than buying a gun, while if you live in a red state, the opposite is true.

    One other problem would be actually getting people out in any real numbers to make a difference. Most anti gun rallies of late have been notably unimpressive while pro gun activists turn out in droves. There just aren’t that many people in the general population on the anti side who give more than a casual damn while the pro side is committed and growing.

    Which leads to the part of the reason for the pro side’s success. They adopted the tactics of the gay rights movement. During the 80’s and 90’s pro gunners mostly hunkered down and hoped for the best, but some time around the early 2000’s, they saw the success the LBGT community was having by staying relentlessly on message. From a raw numbers standpoint, 3% to 5% of the population forced the rest of the country to accept them by basically not backing down and never apologising for who they were and what they wanted. Which led to the rise of what Bill Maher dubbed the “Ammosexual”. The Ammosexual didn’t quietly strap on a Glock under his or her shirt. Nope, the Ammosexual strapped on an AR-15 or AK-47 along with a plate carrier and MOLLIE gear for a run to Taco Bell. He became the gun rights equivalent to the guy at the Gay Pride parade wearing leather and assless chaps. He made the average gun owners look normal by comparison. He’s here, he’s a gear queer, get used to it. And the general public began saying things like “I don’t like those people parading around with rifles, but I guess concealed carriers are okay.”

    To put it bluntly, the pro gun side realized that if they got loud enough, long enough, the majority would give them what they wanted if only to get them to shut up. And from a legal standpoint, the pro gunners are salivating over the Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage. They reason that if the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment applies to marriage, then it must logically apply to the right to keep and bear arms. Whether that will be borne out in the actual courts remains to be seen.