KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI- Michael Bloomberg’s anti-gun crusade has spread its tentacles out to Kansas City.
Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas said Tuesday morning that the city has filed a lawsuit against a group of firearms businesses and individuals that they claim formed a “trafficking ring” that provided guns to known felons.
Kansas City is the first city to sue the gun industry in more than a decade, according to city officials and attorneys representing the city.
The lawsuit was filed in Jackson County Circuit Court with help from Everytown Law, a branch of Bloomberg’s gun grabbing nonprofit Everytown for Gun Safety.
The lawsuit is the latest in a series of measures that Lucas has taken in an attempt to alleviate rampant gun violence in the city. Last year, the city council passed a series of ordinances pushed by Lucas to keep firearms out of the hands of minors and domestic abusers.
The ordinance mirrors existing federal law to make it illegal on a municipal level for offenders with a history of domestic violence to carry concealed firearms.
“No one who resorts to violence in a romantic relationship or otherwise should be able to carry a gun,” said Lucas at the time.
The lawsuit filed by the city comes just after a near record year for homicides in Kansas City in 2019. Last year, 151 people were murdered in city limits, which was just shy of the all time high of 155 homicides in 2017. As is often the case, most of those murders were left unsolved.
In speaking to the lawsuit, Lucas said:
“There is a significant problem with illegal gun trafficking in our city. And while a lot of our criminal justice partners certainly try to make sure that they root this out, that they address it, there are a lot of private actors that, each day, create new threats for the citizens of Kansas City—frankly to the citizens of our entire region.”
The lawsuit charges that James Samuels, a former Kansas City Fire Department captain led the gun trafficking scheme. Samuels was earlier charged with federal gun crimes in October 2018. The suit also claims that Nevada-based Jimenez Arms, along with several local gun dealers were also responsible.
“Instead of looking at an individual actor…what we’re doing here is saying that we’re actually looking at the folks that were a key part of the …organization,” Lucas said.
The scheme allegedly worked as follows. Samuels would place orders for guns through Jimenez Arms, and had the weapons shipped to a previously licensed local gun dealer, Conceal & Carry, which had been dissolved by the state of Missouri. Samuels is currently waiting trial on related criminal charges in U.S. District Court in Kansas City.
Twice, Jimenez Arms shipped firearms directly to Samuels’ home, “knowing that he was not a licensed dealer and knowing that he was going to resell these guns,” said Alla Lefkowitz, director of affirmative litigation at Everytown Law.
The lawsuit further claims the company “from its very first transaction with Samuels in November 2013…knew, or consciously avoided knowing, that Samuels was purchasing the firearms for resale, something that only a licensee can do.”
“Jimenez Arms therefore participated in Samuels’ trafficking scheme.”
“A gun trafficker cannot accomplish his work alone. He needs suppliers, and he needs straw buyers. He needs companies willing to look the other way. He needs individuals willing to lie for him.”
The lawsuit goes on to charge that as many as 26 guns Samuels purchased from Jimenez Arms from 2013 through 2015 may still be in public circulation.
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After 2015, Samuels still managed to acquire 19 other Jimenez Arms through other vendors, and as many as 17 of those may still be in circulation, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleges that Jimenez Arms’ actions “should come as no surprise” because the company has “racked up a poor record of compliance.” The company was operating under a warning letter from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in November 2017 for violating firearm regulations.
A spokesman for Jimenez Arms, Michael Belancio, said he was not aware of the lawsuit and declined to comment.
Three local Kansas City gun dealers were also named in the scheme. Two of them were unaware of the lawsuit and declined to comment, however both said they were confused they were named in the lawsuit because they had cooperated with federal authorities in the investigation.
Iesha Boles, who is named in the lawsuit as a “straw purchaser”, received the guns from Samuels, and then sold them to known felons, which is a violation of federal law.
Boles pleaded guilty in May in U.S. District Court to charges of falsifying records and illegally transferring ownership of several firearms to another person. Court records showed that Boles admitted lying when she transferred ownership of six firearms between November 2013 and June 2017.
Boles, who is waiting to be sentenced, was alleged to have served as a passthrough for someone who later illegally sold the firearms to others, including several convicted felons, and Samuels.
Lefkowitz said the defendants “knowingly” violated federal gun laws and “disregarded their professional obligations and endangered the entire city of Kansas City.”
Samuels is a defendant in another civil case involving the shooting death of Alvino Dwight Crawford Jr. That lawsuit alleges that Jimenez Arms and Samuels “injected a steady supply of unlawfully obtained firearms into the Kansas City area over a five-year period.”
Crawford’s parents were assisted with Everytown for Gun Safety in filing the wrongful death lawsuit against Jimenez Arms and another gun dealer who allegedly sold the handgun that was used to kill their son.
“Dwight Crawford’s murder is emblematic of a significant gun violence problem in Kansas City, MO., which has been exacerbated by the defendants in this action and other dealers which operate their businesses carelessly,” the Crawford’s’ lawsuit says.
The lawsuit filed against Jimenez Arms and the other dealer is unusual because typically firearm manufacturers and dealers are protected from liability when their products are used to commit crimes due to a federal law known as the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. According to Lefkowitz, the law makes lawsuits against gun dealers rare.
There is an exception, however for businesses that knowingly violate federal gun laws.
By way of relief, the lawsuit asks the court to order Jimenez and the three gun dealers to recover the guns that may still be in circulation; comply with state and federal firearms law; submit to court supervision; train employees; and post bond payments they could later lose in the event of future violations.
In addition, the city is seeking financial damages to pay for related costs incurred for emergency response and police services, prosecution, victims services and other programs.
The Kansas City case differs from a lawsuit filed by parents of Sandy Hook Elementary School victims in Connecticut. That lawsuit, filed against Remington Arms, alleges that the so-called “military-style” rifle used in the shooting was marketed by the company “for use in assaults against human beings.”
Last March, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled 4-3 ruled that Remington can be sued because of the way the AR-15-style Bushmaster rifle was marketed. The families’ lawsuit contends that Remington glorified the gun in advertising aimed at young people, including in violent video games.
In November, the United States Supreme Court refused to shield Remington Arms from the suit, allowing the lawsuit to move forward at the state level. This does not mean that the suit is or is not unconstitutional, only that they refused to hear it until the matter was settled at a lower court.
In 2005, Congress passed a law that protects firearms manufacturers from being held liable for crimes committed by gun purchasers. The law was embraced at the time by the National Rifle Association, however there were cut outs, including for violating rules related to marketing and advertising.
Gun control advocates such as Everytown for Gun Safety, as well as Moms Demand Action, along with anti-gun zealots like Michael Bloomberg, believe that they can remove firearms from the American people by bankrupting the gun manufacturers, hence their focus on overburdening courts with excessive lawsuits.
One can imagine that if lawsuits against gun manufacturers are successful, a natural next step would be to sue automobile manufacturers for things such as drunk driving accidents or children being left in hot cars by irresponsible parents. Where does it end?
Gun rights advocates say that in a lot of these mass-shooting incidents, numerous…sometimes dozens of existing laws were already violated and that an additional law or two would not have affected the outcome, which is probably accurate.
In the case of Sandy Hook, the killer, whom we will not glorify by identifying him, stole a gun from his mother, whom he shot and killed, and then went to the school where he killed 26 innocent children and educators. No law could have prevented that from happening, absent outright confiscation of guns and gutting the 2nd Amendment.
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