Lawsuit is First in New Campaign against Irresponsible Gun Dealers
Philadelphia, Pa. – The seller of the gun used to kill Plymouth Township Police Officer Bradley Fox is liable for his death, according to a complaint filed today by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and Dechert LLP, which are providing pro bono counsel. The lawsuit alleges that In Site Firearms & Law Enforcement Supplies, located in Jeffersonville, Pennsylvania, knew or should have known that the man who bought the gun in 2012 was a straw purchaser, buying a gun for another person.
“Most gun dealers are responsible business people, but unfortunately a few bad apples endanger our communities by putting profits over the lives of people, and choosing to supply the criminal gun market,” said Jonathan Lowy, director of the Brady Center’s Legal Action Project and co-counsel for Ms. Fox. “‘Bad apple’ gun dealers must be held accountable for their irresponsible sales practices in order to make our communities safer.”
The complaint is the first filed after the announcement of the Brady’s campaign to stop “bad apple” gun dealers, which targets the five percent of gun dealers that account for nearly all of the nation’s crime guns.
The campaign, launched this weekend with a rally in Chicago, aims to hold gun dealers accountable through legal action and public pressure. The Brady Center is engaged in eight other cases filed around the country against gun dealers. Brady is representing seven police officers shot or killed with straw purchased guns.
According to the complaint, In Site Firearms sold six guns to Michael Henry between April 2012 and July 2012, including the 9mm Beretta pistol used to kill Officer Fox. Henry straw purchased these six weapons for Andrew Thomas, who could not pass a Brady background check due to his prior criminal record.
The complaint states that each time Henry made a straw purchase at In Site Firearms for Thomas, Thomas provided Henry with cash, waited for him to complete the purchase, and then took possession of each gun in the store’s parking lot. The complaint argues that In Site Firearms failed to comply with its legal obligations, use reasonable care, implement best practices, and/or otherwise take appropriate and necessary steps to minimize the risk of selling guns to straw purchasers. The complaint also alleges that In Site Firearms’ failures were in knowing and willful violation of its duties as a licensed gun dealer and seeks both compensatory and punitive damages.
“The senseless shooting of Brad Fox left his wife Lynsay a young widow, with a young child and their second on the way,” said Hope S. Freiwald, partner with Dechert LLP and co-counsel for Ms. Fox. “It is a testament to Lynsay’s courage and strength that while raising their two kids on her own, she is bringing this lawsuit to prevent other families from suffering as she has.”
Officer Fox—a U.S. marine who survived two tours of duty in Iraq—was killed when Andrew Thomas shot him in September 2012. Fox’s murder and the straw purchase by which Thomas acquired the gun spurred a statewide campaign against straw purchasing, culminating in the passage of the “Brad Fox Law” that established mandatory minimum sentences for repeat straw purchasers. Thomas committed suicide after killing Fox, and Henry was sentenced to 20 to 66 years in prison for the straw purchase.
The lawsuit for Lynsay Fox names In Site Firearms, which is incorporated as L&J Supply, LLC, as well as Luke Kelly, a retired West Norriton police officer, and others who have owned, operated and/or controlled the business. Representing the plaintiffs are Hope S. Freiwald and Wayne I. Pollock of Dechert LLP in Philadelphia, and Jonathan E. Lowy and Robert B. Wilcox, Jr. of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence Legal Action Project in Washington, D.C. The suit was filed in the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas. A copy of the complaint is available online.
For 25 years the Brady Center’s Legal Action Project has brought lawsuits against “bad apple” gun dealers that have forced them to change the way they sell guns, and forced others out of business. Brady’s new campaign will intensify and expand our effort to reform the worst actors in the gun industry. Brady is educating the public about the problem of “bad apple” gun dealers, organizing activists to demand that their local gun dealers not be “bad apples,” and increasing legal actions across the country to hold the “bad apples” accountable in court.
Brady has one powerful mission — to unite all Americans against gun violence. We work across Congress, the courts, and our communities with over 90 grassroots chapters, bringing together young and old, red and blue, and every shade of color to find common ground in common sense. In the spirit of our namesakes Jim and Sarah Brady, we have fought for over 45 years to take action, not sides, and we will not stop until this epidemic ends. It’s in our hands.