October 28, 2016

Lawsuit Holds Broad Implications for Dealers that Sell Guns to Suspected Straw Purchasers

(Portland, Ore.) — The family of Kirsten Englund, a California woman brutally murdered by a mentally ill shooter, has reached an agreement with Diane Boyce, the killer’s mother, who straw purchased several guns for her son. The settlement has broad implications in the family’s ongoing wrongful death lawsuit against two gun dealers, which alleges that the retailers had reason to know that Boyce was an illegal straw buyer for her son, Jeffrey, yet still allowed her to obtain semi-automatic weapons.

As a result of the family’s settlement, Boyce has agreed to provide documents, information and testimony in the Englund family’s ongoing claim that Kirsten Englund’s death was caused by the retailers’ negligence. This morning, the family moved to file an Amended Complaint, which incorporates the material provided by Diane Boyce. Additionally, Ms. Boyce has agreed to pay $400,000 to the family of Kristen Englund.

In 2013, Jeffrey Boyce killed Kirsten Englund, whom he had never met, at a Pacific Ocean overlook near Eugene, Ore. He shot her, then poured gasoline over her and lit her on fire and then shot her again. From there, he drove to northern California, where he carjacked two other people before being arrested. While in jail awaiting arraignment for the murder and carjackings, Boyce committed suicide.

The family’s lawsuit against the gun dealers alleges that, in 2011 and 2012, Diane Boyce helped her son purchase an AK-47 assault rifle, a Makarov 9mm pistol and a Rock Island semi-automatic pistol. J&G Sales, an online gun retailer in Arizona, sold the two pistols, which were then shipped to World Pawn Exchange (“WPE”) in North Bend, Ore. for pickup. The AK-47 was sold by a Minnesota dealer and also shipped to WPE for pick up. These purchases were permitted despite several alleged red flags that Diane Boyce was making these purchases for her son, who was not legally allowed to own them. The case has far-reaching implications for whether gun retailers nationwide can be held responsible when guns sold illegally are subsequently used to commit crimes.

“My mother was murdered by a man who should never have been able to get his hands on a firearm,” said Andrew Wiegardt, one of Kirsten’s Englund’s two sons. “I am a responsible hunter and a gun-owner and I believe in the rights given by the Second Amendment, but firearms dealers are responsible for ensuring legal gun sales and ownership and for preventing the transfer of guns via straw purchase to fuel criminal violence, and they should be held accountable for careless behavior. We have taken this step, reopening a terribly tragedy, to try to make sure that no other family has to go through what we have.”

“As the complaint lays out, this case aims to make clear that World Pawn and J&G sold these automatic weapons to a straw purchaser, despite clear red flags that the sales should not have happened,” said an attorney at Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, which is representing the Englund family pro-bono . “Had these gun sellers followed the law, these sales would not have happened and Kirsten Englund would not have suffered a brutal death. The law makes them accountable for her murder.”

“Most gun dealers are responsible business people who try to keep guns out of dangerous hands, but a few choose to profit off arming criminals and the straw purchasers who supply them with deadly weapons that harm tens of thousands of American families every year,” said Jonathan Lowy, co-counsel for the Englund family and Director of the Brady Center’s Legal Action Project . “By holding these irresponsible gun dealers accountable for the senseless and foreseeable violence caused by their careless actions, gun retailers across the country will get the message that they must put people over profits and act carefully to not supply guns to people we all agree should not have them.”

Straw purchases are one of the primary methods through which guns are acquired for criminal use and federally licensed firearms dealers play a critical role in identifying straw purchasers. In an effort to prevent straw purchases, the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) requires that, for each gun sale, dealers complete Form 4473, which is designed to determine if a gun sale is legal.

Before transferring a firearm, a dealer is required by law to certify that there is no reason to believe that the transfer is illegal.

In permitting Diane Boyce’s purchase of these three weapons, WPE allegedly ignored multiple red flags that are common in straw purchaser situations. For example, all three guns were purchased in a time period of only 78 days and, according to the complaint, at least one of the guns, the AK-47, is “a potential indicator of a person obtaining a firearm for illegal purposes.” Further, in written communications shared with WPE, Jeffrey Boyce told J&G Sales that he was the actual purchaser; nevertheless, WPE allowed Diane Boyce to pick up and purchase the gun.

The complaint alleges that, at the time of the Boyce sales, J&G was knowingly engaged in the unlawful sale of guns to straw purchasers. During a June 2009 inspection, the ATF identified numerous straw purchasers and traffickers from J&G’s records and referred those individuals to the relevant authorities. From 2009-2010, 130 firearms sold by J&G were recovered as crime guns in Mexico, the third highest total among gun retailers in the United States, according to government data obtained by The Washington Post.

Attorneys from Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, the D’Amore Law Group, Nick Kahl, LLC and the Brady Center are representing the Englund family on a pro-bono basis.

The Brady Center has successfully brought numerous lawsuits holding gun companies accountable for their contribution to gun deaths and injuries, and have pending lawsuits in courts across the country.

The Englund family’s case against the gun retailers resides in the Oregon’s Circuit Court for Multnomah County.

Contact:

Eliza Bates / 646-285-8491
eliza.bates@berlinrosen.com