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Brady Center Files Suit Against Gun Sellers Who Supplied Trafficking Ring with Hundreds of Guns


BUFFALO, N.Y., July 28 --

-- Wounded Basketball Star Seeks To Hold Dealer, Saturday Night Special Maker and Distributor Accountable For Straw Purchases;

-- Gun Suit Would Be Barred By Immunity Legislation Now On Senate Floor

Lawyers with the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and Terrence M. Connors of the Buffalo law firm of Connors & Vilardo, LLP today filed a lawsuit on behalf of Daniel Williams, who was 16 when he was shot in the stomach and severely wounded as he played basketball on August 16, 2003. The suit seeks to recover damages from the gun companies who negligently enabled known gang member, Cornell Caldwell, to obtain the gun and shoot Williams.

Caldwell obtained one of the hundreds of guns trafficked to Buffalo from Ohio by notorious gunrunner James Nigel Bostic. The Buffalo News reported that between May and October 2000, Bostic purchased at least 250 guns from gun dealer Charlie Brown, and other gun sellers, at gun shows in Dayton, Ohio. Bostic traveled to Ohio, which, unlike New York, does not require a license to purchase a gun or impose a waiting period, to buy mainly Hi-Point Saturday Night Special handguns for under $100 a piece, then sold them for two to three times the price on the streets of Buffalo.

The suit alleges that gun dealer Charlie Brown was negligent in selling Bostic and his straw purchasers 190 Saturday Night Special handguns. It also alleges that Bostic and his girlfriend, Kimberly Upshaw, purchased guns from Brown on five occasions, including a purchase of 87 handguns, one of which was the handgun used to shoot and injure Williams. The suit alleges as well that Bostic sometimes used girlfriends to purchase guns for him in order to avoid being the purchaser of record, however, Bostic selected the guns and paid for them in cash.

“When this gun dealer chose to sell 190 Saturday Night Specials to a gun trafficker and his cohorts, he only saw dollar signs, not the damage those sales would wreak on innocent people,” said Elizabeth S. Haile, Staff Attorney with the Brady Center. “These sales were grossly irresponsible, and the dealer should be held accountable in court. It is an outrage that the NRA and its allies in Congress, and President Bush, want to give unprecedented, sweeping immunity to reckless dealers who arm gun traffickers and criminals, at the expense of innocent victims like Daniel Williams.”

“These guns are flooding our neighborhoods and killing our children. Dan Williams almost died in his father’s arms,” said Connors of Connors & Vilardo.

Williams was shot as he prepared to enter his junior year at McKinley High School where he was a good student and star point guard on the basketball team. As Williams picked up a basketball, a red Volkswagen Jetta drove up to him while the front-seat passenger stuck a gun out the driver’s window and fired it at Williams, shooting him in the stomach. The shooter’s car fled the scene, but police apprehended the shooter, Cornell Caldwell, with a Hi-Point 9mm semi-automatic pistol. Caldwell shot Williams mistakenly thinking he was a rival gang member.

Williams survived the shooting but took months to recover. Williams still required 22 staples to close the wound and could barely walk when he was released from the hospital.

The Buffalo News reported that Brown, the President of MKS Supply, the sole distributor of Hi-Point firearms, completed the sales of 190 handguns to Bostic and his straw purchaser even when it should have been obvious that the guns were headed for the streets. This is not the only time Brown has made sales to traffickers -- in addition to the guns recovered in Buffalo, 630 guns sold by Brown were recovered in connection with crime in New York City, and a semiautomatic rifle sold by Brown was used in the 1999 Columbine High school massacre.

Despite Brown’s record, the U.S. Department of Justice did not file any charges against him and ATF has not revoked his license. Weak federal laws make it extremely difficult for ATF to take action against negligent gun dealers. Hi-Point, the maker of the guns distributed and sold by Brown, has also continued to supply Brown with Saturday Night Specials.

The carnage wrought by Bostic’s trafficking ring was the subject of a four-part series in the Buffalo News, “The Damage Done,” in June 2005. The series exposed the deadly role that gun trafficker and the gun industry play in supplying firearms to dangerous criminals and focused on the scores of guns supplied by Brown and other Ohio gun dealers to Bostic.

The lawsuit includes claims against Brown, MKS Supply, Hi-Point, Bostic, and Upshaw for negligence and helping to create a public nuisance.

The Congressional response to gun industry complicity in supplying firearms to dangerous criminals has been to consider legislation to immunize gun makers and sellers from civil liability. Federal legislation being pushed by the NRA, S. 397/H.R. 800, and being considered by the U.S. Senate this week, would throw case like Williams’ out of court before a judge or jury ever hears it.

The legislation would grant sweeping immunity to negligent and reckless gun sellers and manufacturers, banning nearly all suits against them in all state and federal courts and dismissing pending cases. Hi-Point, MKS Supply and Charlie Brown would have immunity from suit and Daniel Williams would be deprived of his day in court. The immunity legislation overturns New York law and the laws of 44 other states which currently allow gun victims to sue negligent gun sellers. The bill would give special protections to the gun industry that have never been granted to any other industry.


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