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Insane multimillion dollar Wisconsin gun store verdict that could reverberate in the gun debate

Insane multimillion dollar Wisconsin gun store verdict that could reverberate in the gun debate

By Mark Berman for The Washington Post

In an unusual case, a jury in Wisconsin declared Tuesday that a gun store had to pay millions of dollars to Milwaukee police officers who were shot by a firearm bought at the store.

The case offered an attention-grabbing combination of factors, including a rare loss for the firearms industry, a verdict awarding more than $5 million in damages, injured police officers and a contested gun sale. And it also arrived as the country discusses gun violence in the wake of another mass shooting, an ongoing conversation that has led to presidential candidates debating a federal law that protects gun sellers and manufacturers from liability.

Experts say the Wisconsin verdict’s long-term impact could be significant if it prompts a surge in new lawsuits aimed at the firearms industry and at the federal law’s exemptions, though they caution that the case is far from over, as the lawyer for the gun store says he plans to appeal.

“We may be at the threshold of something, but you can’t predict it right now,” said Marshall S. Shapo, a law professor at Northwestern University and an expert in product liability. “When you get a blip like this, it may signal that there’s a target of opportunity but you have a long way to go.”

The case centered on a gun that was sold to one person, given to another and then used not long after to shoot two police officers.

In 2009, two Milwaukee police officers named Bryan Norberg and Graham Kunisch were attempting to stop an 18-year-old named Julius Burton for riding his bicycle on a sidewalk. Burton opened fire at the officers, hitting both of them. Norberg was shot in the face, shoulder and knee, while Knusch was shot in the face, hand, shoulder and neck, according to the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s account of the case.

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