“There is nothing that says people only have the right to buy a $1,000 gun vs. a $300 gun,” Scott Braum asserts. “And many people don’t have that choice if they want a gun to protect their family.” The Attorney made the statement on behalf of Charles Brown, accused of knowingly selling handguns to three so-called straw purchasers back in 2005. As sole distributor for Hi-Point, Brown claims he’s covered by the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which shelters firearms manufacturers from legal blowback if and when their customers use their products to commit crimes. Here’s the background to the seven-year-old suit via The Cleveland Plain dealer . . .
Williams, a high school basketball standout, was mistaken for a gang rival in 2003 and shot while playing basketball in front of a neighbor’s house.
He nearly died in his fathers arms, but later recovered.
Police quickly and traced the gun used in the shooting to a sale at an Ohio gun show more than two years earlier.
It was one of 87 guns purchased by an Ohio woman, Kimberly Upshaw. She along with James Nigel Bostic and two other women bought as many as 181 Hi-Points from Brown. His company, MKS Supply, is the sole distributor of the brand.
Bostic told Brown he was planning on opening his own gun shop, according to court filings, though he lacked a federal license to do so and was not likely to obtain one because of past convictions for misdemeanors.
The lawsuit hinges on whether or not Brown knowingly sold the guns to straw purchasers. The theory, championed by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, is that Brown had to have known, or should have known, given that Hi-Points are notorious “crime guns.”
Brown’s defense (as above): “Hi-Point is an affordable firearm. And there is absolutely a very large, legal market for an affordable, reliable, accurate firearm in America.” In other words, they’re just trying to keep the customer satisfied. By doing so, a small percentage end up in criminal hands.
So what are the numbers?
Records show Hi-Points were the firearm of choice in more than 60 percent of straw purchase cases federally prosecuted in the Northern District of Ohio region since 2006.
Hi-Points, which are manufactured in a small plant about 80 miles from Cleveland, also were among the guns most confiscated by Cleveland police in the past five years. Police seized 83 Hi-Points in 2011 and 64 so far this year . . .
Tom Deeb, whose company has been making Hi-Points since 1988 and now is the 4th largest pistol manufacturer in the country, producing as many as 85,000 a year, said in a recent interview that his heart breaks every time he hears about a crime involving one of his guns . . .
See how that works? Writer Rachel Dissell flags the percentage of Hi-Points in a selective subset (straw purchasing) and then trumpets the absolute number of Hi-Points confiscated. The author singularly fails to connect the dots and point out the percentage of Hi-Points used in crimes per year vs. the total number produced per year. I make it less than one percent.
To her credit, Dissell points out that Deeb has gone above and beyond the call of duty in trying to make his guns traceable by law enforcement. Never mind. The case against Brown, MKS, Deeb and Hi-Point is a political football. It has as much to do with common sense as a Stealth Bomber has to do with humanitarian aid.
Lori O’Neill, a Northeast Ohio gun violence and trafficking prevention specialist, said that if a long-established, federally licensed gun dealer like Brown cannot be trusted to recognize an obviously illegal purchase of handguns to a straw buyer, the state needs to take action.
The state should limit the number of handguns a person can purchase in a single transaction, she said. And all federally licensed gun dealers and employees should be required to undergo training on recognizing straw purchases, said O’Neill, who has consulted with Cleveland-area law enforcement on gun issues.
“While determined criminals may find a way to get guns,” she said. ” We don’t have to make it so easy for them.”
What’s not said: any attempt to make it more difficult for criminals to get guns makes it more difficult (i.e. costly) for law-abiding citizens to get guns. Is it worth it? Of course not. But the antis will have their day in court on this one. Watch this space.