Society

Family of Slain Police Officer Sues Gun Store that Sold the Weapon to Straw Purchaser

| by Dabney Bailey
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After their only son was gunned down, Carolyn and Thomas Wortham III are attempting to sue a Mississippi gun store for ignoring warning signs and selling a firearm to a someone who was part of a gun trafficking ring. The gun was eventually used to kill Thomas Wortham IV on May 19, 2010.

The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence filed a lawsuit on the Worthams’ behalf against Ed’s Pawn Shop & Salvage Yard. The suit alleges that store owner Bruce Edward Archer "knew or should have known at the time of the sale that the sale of the handgun to Michael Elliott, a straw purchaser, was illegal, as Elliott was conspiring with a gun trafficker."

The Brady Center and the Worthams might actually have a case – a Chicago thief used a gun to kill Wortham. He got the gun from Quawi Gates, a college student who was masterminding a gun-running scheme in Mississippi. Gates got the gun from Elliott. The bread crumb trail quite clearly leads back to the gun shop and so far every responsible party has paid the consequences – Gates was sentenced to 10 years in prison and Elliott received six months of jail time. The only question that remains is whether or not the plaintiffs can prove that the defendants knew that it was a straw purchase.

The transaction was certainly suspicious. Elliott was legally able to buy firearms, but it’s a bit peculiar that he offered to buy three firearms for $1,500 in cash as a first time customer.

Somewhat ironically, the gun control bill that the Senate just voted down would have stopped this purchase from ever happening.

Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said of the lawsuit, “I really like this idea.” Similarly, Senator Dick Durbin (D, IL) has been promoting legislation that would impose prison sentences as long as 25 years on people found guilty of straw purchases.

Regardless, the lawsuit might help the Wortham family find closure. Carolyn Wortham said, “I have to live with what has happened to my son for the rest of my life and I have to get up every day thinking about that (but) I don't want any other mother or any other family to go through this."

It’s certainly unfortunate that gun retailers have to be partially responsible for what their customers do with their guns, but if the retailer truly did have reason to believe that Elliott was a straw purchaser, then the law could come down hard on Ed’s Pawn Shop & Salvage Yard.

Source: My San Antonio