In an amicus brief filed yesterday, Public Advocate Letitia James and other New York officials argued that victims’ families should be allowed to sue Walmart in state court for selling handgun ammunition to a drunk, under-age customer.
The New York Daily news explains, “The case is unfolding in Pennsylvania, but the city pols say being able to go after sellers is crucial to stopping the ‘iron pipeline’ that pumps out-of-state guns into New York.”
“Walmart must be held accountable for its role in this reckless sale of ammunition,” James said. “We will not allow Walmart and other gun retailers to hide behind federal court protections and sweep their role in gun deaths under the rug.”
Walmart wants to move the case to federal court, where the company would be protected by federal laws that shield gun manufacturers from liability.
According to the families, 20-year-old Robert Jourdain purchased ammunition from Walmart, which failed to check his age to confirm he was the legal age of 21 to purchase ammunition. They also allege Mr. Jourdain was drunk and had been drinking for at least four hours before purchasing the ammunition. Thirty minutes later a “pal” used the ammunition to shoot three people in a crime spree.
“The federal statute governs the sale of firearms and ammunition, and we believe the federal statute governs these claims,” said Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove, adding that the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which limits suits against sellers and manufacturers, preempts state law. “Federal law doesn’t allow the claims raised against us in the plaintiffs’ complaint.”
Is this the whole story? Not exactly.
According to the Huffington Post,
Walmart national media relations director Randy Hargrove said in a telephone interview that the transaction unfolded differently than the lawsuit claims, maintaining that store registers have a prompt requiring cashiers to verify a customer’s age in order to conduct a handgun-related sale.
Hargrove said the box of .38 caliber Winchester ammunition Jourdain purchased could have been used in either a rifle or a handgun. Jourdain told the cashier the bullets were for use in a rifle – for which the legal purchase age is 18, Hargrove said.
The purchase was therefore permissible and cashier did not violate any laws in making the sale, nor did Jourdain display any signs of intoxication while he was in the store, he said.
So perhaps the criminal…lied about how he would use the ammuntion?!? Interesting.
The gunman was 22-year-old Todd West, who was certainly old enough to buy his own ammo according to PA state law. Here’s a little more about West:
West had been released from Mountainview Youth Correctional Facility in Annandale on Oct. 17, 2014, after serving 16 months of a three-year sentence, according to the New Jersey Department of Corrections.
He was serving a sentence for drug charges and for resisting arrest and eluding police while operating a motor vehicle, corrections department records show.
The responsibility for the crime is on West, not on the ammunition or Walmart. Another member of this crew was the getaway driver and used a white Mercedes SUV to flee the scene of the crime. Will we be seeing a liability suit against Mercedes?
No. This is just the camel trying to get its nose into the firearms-manufacturer liability tent.