MILWAUKEE (CN) – Six Milwaukee police officers have been shot by guns sold by a single gun store: Badger Guns, “one of the most notorious gun dealers in America … a cancerous lesion on Milwaukee,” the city says in county court. The city says more than 1,800 “crime guns” were linked to the store from 2006 to 2009 – more than one a day – that Badger “accounted for roughly one-third of all crime guns traced by Milwaukee police in the preceding four years,” and that its owners do not follow even “minimal procedures” to stop the flood of weapons to criminals.
Badger’s “constant supply of deadly weapons to the criminal market makes it a public nuisance,” the city says in Milwaukee County Court.
Joining as plaintiffs are police Officers Jose Lopez III and Alejandro Arce, who were shot by Badger guns. The city calls itself an involuntary plaintiff.
Also named as defendants are Adam J. Allan, a registered agent for Badger, a former longtime employee and the son of Walter Adam (sic), former co-owner of Badger Outdoors; Walter J. Allan, an officer, director, shareholder and owner and Badger Outdoors; Mick Beatovic of Sun City West, Ariz., an owner and manager of Badger Guns; and Jose Fernandez, who is in prison. Badger Guns aka Badger Outdoors operates out of 2339 S. 43rd St. in Milwaukee.
Fernandez, a heroin addict, acted as a straw buyer for a 15-year old, according to the complaint. The city says Badger sold him a high-powered gun with high-capacity magazines and a flash suppressor, or silencer, all of which were used to shoot the two officers just 8 days later.
Lopez and Arce were two of the six Milwaukee police officers who were shot by guns purchased at Badger from 2007 to 2009, according to the complaint.
Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn called Badger “a cancerous lesion on Milwaukee … and the poison it creates is seeping onto our streets and causing havoc.”
Chief Flynn told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel last week: “Our officers have every right to seek relief from the civil courts just as much as they have a right to expect justice from the criminal courts. I wish them well as they attempt to affix accountability for their wounds.”
The City says that Badger has changed its name repeatedly to try duck its stigma as “the number one crime gun dealer in America.”
The complaint states: “Badger Guns is one of the most notorious gun dealers in America. Operating under the names Badger Guns, Badger Outdoors, and Badger Guns & Ammo (hereinafter ‘Badger’), Badger’s constant supply of deadly weapons to the criminal market makes it a public nuisance. Badger has ranked as the number one crime gun dealer in America, selling more guns traced to crime in a year than any other dealer. Badger has frequently sold an average of more than one crime gun every day of the year – an average of more than 10 a week. Badger has sold firearms in violation of state and federal law and engaged in unlawful straw sales. Badger has repeated[ly] been cited by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (STF) for violating federal gun laws. Badger has accounted for two-thirds of all the crime guns recovered in Milwaukee. In recent years, 90% of straw buyers prosecuted in Milwaukee purchased their guns at Badger. All told, Badger has sold more than 4,000 crime guns.”
The city adds: “This lawsuit does not in any way challenge the right of law-abiding citizens to bear arms. This lawsuit also does not challenge in any way the right of responsible gun dealers to operate a business of selling guns to law-abiding citizens. This lawsuit is about the criminal use of guns and a gun dealer that negligently supplies the criminal market.”
The statistics the city marshals against Badger Guns are impressive: It was the largest seller of crime guns in the country in 1998, and changed its name to Badger Outdoors in 1999; the ATF notified Badger and its predecessor “that thousands of guns they sold were used in crimes;” this included only guns the ATF could trace – “it did not include guns that could not be traced;” Badger was the country’s No. 3 dealer of crime guns from 1996 through 2000, “totaling over 1,906 crime gun traces or more than one a day on average;” in these years it sold two-thirds of the crime guns recovered in Milwaukee; in 1998 and 2000 it was again the nation’s largest seller of crime guns; it topped the national list in crime gun sales again in 2005, with 537 – more than 10 a week; from January 2006 to September 2009, 1,880 crime guns were traced to Badger – more than one a day for more than 3 years; six Milwaukee police officers were shot with Badger guns from 2007 to 2009, including the two plaintiffs in this case; every time a Badger gun was traced to a crime, the ATF and/or other law enforcement agencies informed it so; and, the city adds, Badger has a long history of citations for gun-law violations, including “failing to record the sale of armor-piercing ammunition.” The ATF recommended that Badger Outdoors’ license be revoked in 2007; it responded by changing its name to Badger Guns.
The city adds that 1 percent of the nation’s gun stores sell 57 percent of the guns used in crimes.
Finally, the city adds that Badger, both Allans and Beatovic “have had a routine practice of engaging in illegal straw sales, violating federal firearms laws, and illegally or negligently supplying firearms to criminals.”
The city adds that the city has a pattern of extraordinarily short “time-to-crime” between sale of a gun and the use of the gun in a crime. This is a longstanding method to measure the irresponsibility of gun sales, according to the complaint.
The city claims Badger does not follow even “minimal procedures” to prevent sales of crime guns: that it fails to stop sales or notify law enforcement of the types and number of guns sold, the types and volume of ammunition sold, the time frame for which multiple guns are sold to a single purchaser, and the method of payment used. After Officers Lopez and Arce were shot, the city says, police “discovered felons routinely used Badger owned guns on Badger’s shooting range for target practice; seized 12 guns from felons and others leaving the store; and spotted felons frequently going in the store or waiting outside.”
Despite the staggering statistics, the city’s lawsuit, as expected, drew fire from gun rights activists.
The president of one NRA chapter in Wisconsin claimed the lawsuit was “like suing Ford or Chevy for the vehicle that drove the criminals to the place where they shot the officers.”
Lopez, Arce and the city seek damages for injuries caused by Badger’s legal violations and its failure to screen its customers, and punitive damages for the injured officers. Charges include public nuisance, aiding and abetting tortious conduct, conspiracy, negligence, negligent entrustment, and illegal sale of the gun to Fernandez.
They are represented by Cannon & Dunphy of Brookfield, Wisc., and Jonathan Lowy with the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence Legal Action Project, of Washington, D.C.