The Brady Campaign’s Latest Weapon Against the Gun Business: Lawfare

Amazon’s newspaper, the Washington Post, is trumpeting the latest “win” for the mostly moribund Brady Campaign Against Gun Violence. In an article titled, How a gun-control group got the owner of Lock N Load to quit the business, Cleve R. Wootson Jr. details the process the Brady Bunch used to drive Gerald Tanso out of selling retail firearms.

Tanso’s store, Lock N’ Load of Oldsmar Florida, had refused to sell Benjamin Bishop a gun. It’s not clear what raised their antennae, but it was the right decision. Bishop “had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and claimed he was attacked by assailants.” Maybe it was his behavior or maybe Bishop answered the question regarding mental illness on the Form 4473 honestly. Whatever the reason, Lock N Load turned him away.

But Bishop persuaded a friend, Matthew Schwab, to buy a shotgun for him. A gun he then used to murder his mother and her boyfriend.

The transaction was a straw purchase, in which someone buys a gun for a person who is legally prohibited from possessing one. Straw purchases are illegal for both the buyer and the seller, though the Tampa Bay Times reported that the teen who bought the shotgun later cooperated with authorities and wasn’t charged with a crime.

Here’s a question: why the hell wasn’t Schwab charged? As the NSSF is more than happy to inform anyone who wants to know, a straw purchase is a serious crime. A felony punishable by a fine of up to $250,000 and up to 10 years in prison.

Prosecuting straw purchasers — particularly when an illegal sale resulted in two dead bodies — would seem to set a useful example, a deterrent to anyone considering doing the same.

Enter the Brady Campaign. You know, the same people who tried to sue Lucky Gunner after the Aurora theater shooting and ended up sticking one of the victim’s families with a $200,000 bill.

In this case, they went after Lock N Load’s owner.

A lawsuit filed in 2014 in a Florida circuit court by the families and the Brady Center claimed that the store’s owner, Gerald Tanso, didn’t do enough to keep a dangerous weapon out of the hands of a mentally ill man with a criminal record.

He “didn’t do enough,” even though he’d already refused to sell a gun to Bishop. Even though the only way Bishop got his hands on that shotgun was to get Schwab — who’s now walking around scot-free — to buy it for him.

You can probably imagine the attorney fees Tanso racked up to defend himself. And in case you’re unaware, a local gun store isn’t exactly a high margin business. You don’t see a lot of LGS owners tooling around in Ferraris.

So, no doubt faced with ruinous legal bills, Tanso was forced to throw in the towel, selling his store as part of a settlement in order to make the suit go away (and probably avoid bankruptcy).

But that wasn’t enough for the Brady Campaign. They needed a bloody scalp they could waive as a sign of “victory.” As part of the deal, Tanso also had to release the following statement:

“I have sold my gun shop and will no longer engage in the business of selling firearms,” Tanso said in the statement. “Our Second Amendment protects the rights of law abiding citizens and we must protect those rights. At the same time, we must exercise great caution and due diligence with great responsibility in preventing firearms from getting in the wrong hands of people who seek to harm us all.

“I support laws that protect our Second Amendment and the laws that protect our society from criminal elements who would abuse that right to the detriment of others. I encourage all gun dealers, including the new owner of my gun shop, to implement such measures.”

You can almost picture the (metaphorical) gun the Brady Campaign held to his head when he signed his name to that statement.

Given their impotence in getting stricter gun control laws passed at the federal level — even during the gun-control-friendly Obama years — the Brady Campaign appears to have changed tactics. They’ve taken up a new weapon — lawfare — aiming to make it more financially risky to sell a legal consumer product to Americans who pass federally mandated background checks.

Jonathan Lowy, a Brady Center attorney involved in the case, said the organization has been going after the small percentage of gun stores that, he said, are responsible for 90 percent of the guns used in crimes.

“Most gun dealers are responsible business people who do what they can to prevent dangerous people from getting guns, but unfortunately there are some that don’t,” Lowy told The Post.

“For those gun dealers who just care about the bottom line and just care about the money they make from the next gun sale … lawsuits like this mean it’s no longer profitable. … We’re hoping we can change the calculus for those gun dealers.”

Wait. What about the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, you ask? Shouldn’t that protect gun stores like Lock N Load from this kind of extortion racket? Yes, but that still takes time and money. Lots of both to fend off a determined litigious actor like the Brady Bunch, even if their suit is otherwise frivolous.

As former NRA president Marion Hammer said,

The Brady Center “is determined to find any way it can to destroy Second Amendment rights of citizens,” she said, adding: “There don’t appear to be individuals they target — it’s a cause. And if they get an individual gun shop owner in their sights, they’re going to spend whatever it takes unless the courts step in and put a stop to this malicious behavior.”

So chalk one up for Brady’s infliction of death by litigation costs. But while Mr. Tanso was forced out of his own business, Lock N Load isn’t gone. As the Post article notes,

Lock N Load still exists, but it has a new owner: Dominic Zingale, a federally licensed firearms dealer, who said in a written statement to the Tampa Bay Times that he “will continue to follow all of the applicable ATF, Florida, and local guns laws and procedures set forth by them to the letter.” He added that he has “no operational ties to the former owner nor have I worked with him when he was in the firearms business.”

Keep your head on a swivel, Mr. Zingale.

comments

  1. avatar former water walker says:

    So they succeed where the Brady Bums fail in Riverdale,IL(Chuck’s)fails?!? How in the hell? How could a gunshop possibly vet every straw buy? I’m not buying the narrative…more here than is revealed.

    1. avatar Jonathan - Houston says:

      Hmmm…..I dunno…how about they start by opening their eyes? From the original article:

      “So the second time [Bishop] went to Lock N Load in Oldsmar, Fla., he brought a neighborhood acquaintance. AS BISHOP STOOD NEARBY [emphasis mine], the 18-year-old acquaintance bought a 12-gauge shotgun for $279 in cash, court documents say.”

      Sooo…..psycho boy can’t get a gun and gets turned away. So he comes back with a buddy and flagrantly executes a straw purchase? Nice.

      Suck it, Lock N Load. You’re negligent and deserve to be in jail. You’re lucky you got off with expulsion from the firearms industry and some kind of sale on your assets.

      This is not the poster boy for “lawfare” you’re looking for. Bonus tip for the day: part of the truth about guns is that, like any other passionate movement, people will lie, deny, conceal, and ignore the full story if it encroaches on their firmly held beliefs….or their blog’s traffic.

      1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

        Jonathan – Houston,

        If the gun store refused to sell to Bishop — who then brings a friend within minutes to purchase the same firearm that he tried to purchase earlier — and the gun store goes ahead with the sale, that would be problematic.

        Now what if Bishop returned two weeks later with the friend? How is the gun store supposed to keep track of that? I don’t see any wrong-doing if that is the case.

        1. avatar DrewN says:

          I dunno, when I was 18 there’s no way I would have gone to buy a new gun without at least a couple buddies tagging along. It was an event after all, plus shooting after. “Dude, that’s exactly what I was gonna buy, but my DROS got shot down” is a conversation it’s easy to imagine happening, for me at least.

        2. avatar Frank in VA says:

          How often do you think these guys make a decision to turn someone away themselves? Not because of a NICS check fail, but because some semblance of crazy was manifesting itself prior to the purchase. I’ll wager not that often, and I’ll bet they would remember the guy. If it was an entirely different salesperson involved and the manager who initially denied the sale wasn’t there, then maybe it’s understandable. Otherwise, this guy looked the other way to make a sale. Based on the fact that he settled in a way that ended his business, I’m guessing that was the case.

          I remember witnessing what I was certain was a straw purchase around 1989 or 1990 in a gun shop in Vienna, VA, though I didn’t know the term then. An underage kid, probably 16 or so showed up with his over-18 friend to buy an AR-15. The younger kid was the one doing all the gun handling, asking the questions, etc. His friend hardly touched the rifle. When it came time to buy, his friend pulled out his ID and started doing paperwork. I never saw any sign of resistance or questioning from the sales guy. Even though I was barely 18 myself, it bothered me, and I bailed on the store. Never went back.

    2. I fee sorry for the gun shop owner who did everything he could, within his power to keep a gun away from an individual who was clearly flagged as an individual not to own any type of firearm.(THE MURDERER WHO FACILITATED THE STRAW BUY-A FELONY-SHOULD HAVE TO PAY THE PRICE OF A FELON-WHICH HE IS ). hE IS AS GUILTY AS THE PERSON WHO PULLED THE TRIGGER. THIS MAKES NE PHYSICALLY SICK. THE NEWSPAPER SHOULD BE SUED AND FORCED TO MAKE A RECANT . SET THINGS STRAIGHT. THIS JUST GIVES A TASTE OF WHAT PRESIDENT TRUMP LIVES WITH ON A DAY TO DAY BASIS.

    3. avatar John Books says:

      The brady folks have had 20 years of building their base to start their ISIS attack on law abiding Americans. Since the leader of the Dems has left the white house, he and his cronies are still at work behind the scenes. It would amaze most Americans how deceitful they really are…and what their true intentions are for this country.

      Gun owners and future owners, support your gun dealers and purchase from them. It’s good to have a President who is pro guns, his win, has caused a decline in overall sales in the gun industry as a whole by 20%. This isn’t the time to sit back while the anti-gunners and their party poke holes and go after the dealers in this country.Where the hell is the NRA…aren’t you folks suppose to help our cause?

      Wayne L. are you enjoying your seven figure income you’ve earned from the sweat of the average American who supports the NRA? Get off you duff and do what ever it is you do and help these gun dealers!!!

  2. avatar ToddR says:

    There has to be more to the story. Maybe he hired the wrong attorney but more likely, upon discovery, the plaintiffs found evidence of a pattern of behavior that if put in front of a jury, he was likely to lose. I’d put my money on (sadly) laziness.

    1. avatar Jeff says:

      Two potentially relevant details from the WaPo article stood out to me:

      1) “In 2011, [Tanso’s] store sold a .38-caliber pistol to Julie Schenecker, who cleared all the appropriate checks, then used the gun to kill her two children. She’s serving two concurrent life sentences in prison.”

      2) Bishop came in with the neighbor who made the straw purchase, and was standing around in the store while the purchase happened.

      The first clearly isn’t on Tanso, but establishes a history that might sway a jury. The second one is iffy, but again a jury might be swayed by it.

      1. avatar Geoff PR says:

        “Two potentially relevant details from the WaPo article stood out to me:

        1) “In 2011, [Tanso’s] store sold a .38-caliber pistol to Julie Schenecker, who cleared all the appropriate checks, then used the gun to kill her two children. She’s serving two concurrent life sentences in prison.”

        What does Julie Schenecker’s case have to do with the straw purchase?

        (Julie Schenecker was the ‘Mother Inferior’ who killed her two kids and told the cops she did it because they were ‘mouthy’.)

        http://www.tampabay.com/news/courts/criminal/jurors-say-scheneckers-journal-sealed-her-fate/2180124

        1. avatar Big Bill says:

          “What does Julie Schenecker’s case have to do with the straw purchase?”

          Absolutely nothing.
          But then, remember that we are talking about a (possible) jury trial, where the jury is made up of twelve people too stupid to get out of jury duty.
          Lawyers are very good at saying what sounds like important stuff, that upon reflection means nothing. And juries have made some monumentally stupid decisions, based on what those lawyers say.

  3. avatar Darkstar says:

    Wow, kinda sorta seems like extortion. This is a serious problem when an entity with deep pockets can pretty much mow down any opposition via “legal” means. I’m sure this kind of thing happens all the time. Any legal minded types here have any ideas to combat this kind of thing? Tort reform? Anything?

    1. avatar pwrserge says:

      Tort reform is a start. Criminal liability for EVERYONE involved in a fraudulent suit like the one against Lucky Gunner is a good second step. You filed the paperwork? 10-20. You gave money to the organization bankrolling it? 10-20. You ran the organization involved 20-life. All perfectly constitutional and falls under criminal conspiracy. Take away prosecutorial discretion in these cases and make the sentences mandatory.

    2. avatar cmac890 says:

      Yeah, it’s called the PLCA. The rich and powerful have always been able to ruin their enemies with endless litigation. Thats a feature, not a bug. Combine that with a disdain for personal freedom, and this is how the entire firearms industry was supposed to die.

    3. avatar TX_Lawyer says:

      You could require the plaintiff in these types of cases to post a bond to cover the defendant’s litigation costs. Posting a bond to continue litigation isn’t all that uncommon.

      If this was the case, you would have defense attorney’s specializing in this sort of law who would work on contingency. It wouldn’t cost the gun store/maker anything.

    4. avatar Victor Chamoun says:

      If anybody bothered to read the end of this “article” it clearly states that Bishop didn’t have much to say to the reporter. It goes on to state the reporter got most of the story from a relative of Bishop’s who was told by Bishop what happened. This is not a true story of the events as reported because it has become a third party “witness” which is nothing more than hearsay! Typical biased liberal reporting paid for by the Brady crime family!!

  4. avatar Russ H. says:

    There’s definitely more to this story – bad attorney, bad judge, bad jury, more history or he ran out of money and settled.

  5. avatar Joe R. says:

    Abuse of process?

    Another way the left is trying to crater the civil things, like jurisprudence.

    Soon people won’t go to the court’s for anything, and they’ll respond with immediate violence to summon and lien.

    1. avatar Mark N. says:

      Death by a thousand cuts. this is why the lawful commerce in firearms act was passed, because these cases threatened the entire industry–which is of course what was intended. Now, since they can’t go after the manufacturers, they are going after middlemen and store owners, little fish who can’t afford to hire sharks to prote3ct them.

    2. avatar Ralph says:

      “Abuse of process?”

      The whole point of having a process is to abuse it.

    3. avatar DaveL says:

      This sort of thing used to be a crime, specifically “barratry.” Se also “maintenance” and “champerty”.

  6. avatar Patrick (No...The other one) says:

    Hmmm…a group that sees no value in a weapon to defend oneself uses highly paid attorneys to go after small gun stores who can’t defend themselves. How do these people sleep at night?

    1. avatar Desert Dave says:

      Ignorance (and snowflake liberalism) is bliss. They are doing their god’s work, recently deposed.

  7. avatar GS650G says:

    So mind reading and tea leaf reading is now part of the process.
    He should open another store, or did they extract a pinky promise from him he wouldn’t?

  8. avatar Garrison Hall says:

    But what the gun controllers never understand is that every “victory” like this has the unanticipated consequence of further igniting the resistance of gun owners. A similar thing happened with National Prohibition. The Temperance movement thought it had finally won the argument over banning whisky consumption but then what actually happened is that the “whisky ban” just ushered in the Roaring 20’s, “rum running” smuggling, bathtub gin, and Speakeasy bars. Some prohibition.

  9. avatar ad-lib says:

    “Here’s a question: why the hell wasn’t Schwab charged?”

    …this question is literally answered in the article in question.
    whether or not you agree with the policy, it’s not a mystery.

    1. “Cooperating with authorities” in this case is a poor excuse for letting Schwab off without being charged at all. Not even probation or a suspended sentence. Letting him off is almost as great a crime.

      1. avatar doesky2 says:

        Why would the authorities need Schwab to “Cooperating with authorities” any way?

        His signature is on the paperwork.
        There was probably eveidence galore that Bishop did the killing.

        Then 1 year after killing the murderer is ruled incompetant…..
        “The order means that Bishop will be sent to a mental health facility for treatment. Doctors there will then send periodic reports to the court with updates on his condition.”

        Then 2 years later he’s convicted to 2 life sentences …WTF?

        Noting in between.

        A few articles about the straw buyer not being charged and “confusion” in the law.
        A lot of bad, incomplete, incompetant, and and unchallenging reporting.

        1. avatar Big Bill says:

          “His signature is on the paperwork.
          There was probably eveidence galore that Bishop did the killing.”

          IANAL, but those two are not necessarily connected in any way.
          Many, if not most, of us here have sold guns we bought legally. Some of us have even sold legally bought guns to friends. That does not make the legal purchase of those guns “straw purchases.”
          The “straw buyer”, in this case Schwab, would probably have faced no legal penalty for his purchase, and subsequent transfer, of the shotgun if he’d said nothing (not cooperated), but could have faced ruinous legal costs to even begin defending himself against such a charge, even if it never went to trial.
          His cooperation could have saved his economic life.
          That could well be why Schwab was not charged; it could have been a trade off (done very often) to nail a bigger target.

        2. avatar Big Bill says:

          And I forgot to mention that you aren’t allowed to incriminate yourself.
          So, the help he gave can’t be used against him.

      2. avatar ad-lib says:

        agreed it’s a bad excuse. we see it all the time in these kinds of cases and i can’t think of a time i said “okay, that’s justified.”
        …but we know WHY he wasn’t charged.

  10. avatar doesky2 says:

    If somebody was trying to extort my livelyhood like this I don’t know if I would have the willpower to avoid making it real personal with the lawyer.

  11. avatar Bob Jones says:

    The Federal Government should step in and charge Schwab in order to make an example out of him. By NOT charging Schwab, it tells straw purchasers that they can get away with the crime. I doubt the statute of limitations has expired on this one.
    Obama’s DOJ probably conspired with Brady on this one from the start, why else would the straw man go free ?

  12. avatar GERRY NANCE says:

    Bad law.

  13. avatar TRUBRIT says:

    Just a question, anyone know if the NRA assisted in the court case to fight this?

  14. avatar HOWIE says:

    THE SO CALLED “BRADY BUNCH” SHOULD OPEN A SHOP OR TWO IN DETROIT AND CHICAGO OR EVEN LOS ANGELES AND START GETTING RID OF THE GANG BANGERS WHO HAVE MORE ARTILLERY THAN THE U.S.M.C.! EACH ONE YOU BUST DOES A MINIMUM OF 5 TO 10 AND NO EARLY RELEASE. YOU WATCH GUN POSSESSION GO DOWN THE TOILET! START HITTING GUN SHOPS AND WHO CARES IF IT IS CALLED ENTRAPMENT. THEY EITHER DO IT THE RIGHT WAY OR ITS THE SLAMMER! GOD BLESS THE NRA AND ALL THE LEGAL GUN OWNERS IN THE UNITED STATES!

  15. avatar Phil Twiss says:

    When all else fails the collective will go after the individual because the individual has neither the funds or resources to fight the extended battle… Just ask any farmer, small business owner, land owner trying to protect what is theirs from the collective… Everyone says how sorry they are but no one stands with them when the local government zoning board, federal agency or political / activist group uses their resources to take what was theirs… Makes great copy for the press to wave around from both sides but just like the crime victim on the side walk, the individual under the thumb of the state … You are still dead / financially ruined… While they are just making noise to promote there side

    1. avatar Ed Schrade says:

      In the end they didn’t complete their goal, the gun shop is still there, good.

  16. avatar Thomas M McGovern says:

    Minor correction: WaPo is owned by Bezos personally, not by Amazon. Let’s not be guilty of the kinds of misstatements so often found in the libtard fake news.

    1. avatar AOP says:

      Every dollar you spend in Amazon, a part of that goes into Bezos’ pocket so he can run the Washington Compost.

      Shop as little at Amazon if you value your rights.

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