MN Attorney General sues Fleet Farm for allegedly negligently selling firearms

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison(MGN)
Published: Oct. 5, 2022 at 12:56 PM CDT
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ST. PAUL (Valley News Live) - Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison filed a lawsuit against Fleet Farm for allegedly negligently selling firearms to straw purchasers, aiding and abetting these criminals, and contributing to gun trafficking in Minnesota.

The Attorney General claims Fleet Farm repeatedly sold handguns to straw purchasers — people who illegally purchase guns for others who cannot legally purchase guns themselves, such as people convicted of felonies, people with a record of committing domestic violence, and people with mental illness. Ellison says Fleet Farm sold at least 37 firearms to two straw purchasers over the course of 16 months, often selling multiple guns either in single transactions or over short periods of time.

One of the guns Fleet Farm sold to straw purchaser Jerome Horton was fired in a large-scale shootout in a Saint Paul bar on October 10, 2021, that ended in the death of 27-year-old Marquisha Wiley and injuries to 14 bystanders. Another gun Fleet Farm sold to this same straw purchaser was found by a 6-year-old boy in front of his family’s home on September 6, 2021, where the gun was likely discarded by suspects fleeing another public shooting incident.

Most guns Fleet Farm sold to straw purchasers remain unrecovered, risking additional harm.

“Gun dealers and retailers have a duty to be the first line of defense against people who try to illegally obtain guns and provide them directly to criminals or blindly resell them for profit on the black market. But instead of fulfilling their legal obligation to detect and prevent straw purchases, Fleet Farm ignored multiple red flags: they took money from straw purchasers and looked the other way. They put their own profit over Minnesotans’ safety,” Attorney General Ellison said.

The lawsuit filed on Wednesday, October 5 in Hennepin County alleges that Fleet Farm ignored red flags and warning signs that certain buyers were straw purchasers and sold guns to these buyers anyway. The lawsuit asserts claims against Fleet Farm for negligence, negligence per se, negligent entrustment, aiding and abetting, and public nuisance.

Two straw purchasers to whom Fleet Farm sold guns, along with several co-conspirators, have been convicted of federal crimes related to their illegal purchases. In addition, the individuals who unlawfully possessed and fired guns sold by Fleet Farm to straw purchasers also face criminal charges.

In the lawsuit, Attorney General Ellison asks for injunctive relief, including strengthened oversight of Fleet Farm’s operations and increased training to prevent sales of guns to straw purchasers, as well as monetary relief, including disgorgement of Fleet Farm’s profits from sales to straw purchasers.