Officer Shot With Handgun Wants To Sue Over Its Sale

Aug 31, 2016

A "straw sale" is a term for the illegal situation where someone will buy, then give, a gun to someone who can't buy one themselves for legal reasons.
Credit ecos systems /

Indiana’s Supreme Court justices will weigh whether an Indianapolis police officer can sue over what he calls the gun store’s “unlawful actions.”

Indianapolis police officer Dwayne Runnels was shot with a handgun he alleges was purchased at the store KS&E Sports through what’s called a “straw sale.”

The shooter couldn’t legally buy a gun because he was a convicted felon. So another man bought it instead and sold it to the shooter.

Runnels claims KS&E should have known it was a straw sale because the two men picked out the gun together. But KS&E attorney Christopher Renzulli says that doesn’t matter – Indiana law says gun sellers can’t be held liable in civil court for the criminal actions of a third party.

At the Supreme Court hearing Wednesday, Justice Robert Rucker posed a hypothetical to Renzulli.

“Terrorist comes in, says ‘I’m a terrorist, I can’t buy a handgun, sell it to me anyway.’ The dealer does. He takes that handgun and then goes to a school someplace and wreaks havoc,” Rucker says. “Is it your position that there is no civil liability for that gun dealer – yes or no?”

Renzulli responded, “To answer your question, there is no civil liability for that gun dealer.”

Runnels’ argument, in part, is that he’s not trying to hold KS&E liable for the actions of a third party, but rather for its own unlawful actions.

The justices did not announce a timetable for their ruling.