Officer Shot With Handgun Wants To Sue Over Its Sale

Aug 31, 2016

A "straw sale" is a term for the illegal situation where someone will buy, then give, a gun to someone who can't buy one themselves for legal reasons.
Credit ecos systems / https://www.flickr.com/photos/ecossystems/15915563685

Indiana’s Supreme Court justices will weigh whether an Indianapolis police officer can sue over what he calls the gun store’s “unlawful actions.”

Indianapolis police officer Dwayne Runnels was shot with a handgun he alleges was purchased at the store KS&E Sports through what’s called a “straw sale.”

The shooter couldn’t legally buy a gun because he was a convicted felon. So another man bought it instead and sold it to the shooter.

Runnels claims KS&E should have known it was a straw sale because the two men picked out the gun together. But KS&E attorney Christopher Renzulli says that doesn’t matter – Indiana law says gun sellers can’t be held liable in civil court for the criminal actions of a third party.

At the Supreme Court hearing Wednesday, Justice Robert Rucker posed a hypothetical to Renzulli.

“Terrorist comes in, says ‘I’m a terrorist, I can’t buy a handgun, sell it to me anyway.’ The dealer does. He takes that handgun and then goes to a school someplace and wreaks havoc,” Rucker says. “Is it your position that there is no civil liability for that gun dealer – yes or no?”

Renzulli responded, “To answer your question, there is no civil liability for that gun dealer.”

Runnels’ argument, in part, is that he’s not trying to hold KS&E liable for the actions of a third party, but rather for its own unlawful actions.

The justices did not announce a timetable for their ruling.