ST. PAUL (KFGO/WCCO) – Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced Wednesday morning that his office has filed a complaint against Fleet Farm for negligently selling firearms linked to violent crimes.
Ellison said Wednesday that in one instance, 24 guns were sold to a single individual during a four-month span last year. Seven of those guns were later traced to violent crime, including the mass shooting at St. Paul’s Truck Park in October 2021.
“I’m asking the court to impose tighter controls on Fleet Farm including independent monitoring of firearms sales and much more vigorous and rigorous training of their employees to put an end to straw purchasing there,” Ellison said. “I’m also asking the court to order Fleet Farm to disgorge the profits they made from selling guns to straw purchasers.”
A straw purchaser is someone who buys a gun for someone else.
Some straw purchasers, including 25-year-old Jerome Horton, have been charged and convicted.
“Fleet Farm has disregarded well-known and blatant warning signs regarding straw purchases including things like multiple purchases of similar handguns, buying sprees over concentrated periods of time, and staggered visits by straw purchasers to different Fleet Farm locations to elude multiple sale reporting requirements,” he said. “These are the hallmark red flags of illegal gun trafficking by straw purchasers. Fleet Farm had a duty under the law to spot and stop this behavior.”
The pain of gun violence is all too real for Sharrie Jenning, whose 10-year-old grandson Ladavionne Garrett Jr. was shot April 30 while riding in a car with his parents in Minneapolis.
“My grandson still lives with a bullet in his head from a gunshot wound,” Jennings said. “We have to make sure our babies are safe. They want to go outside and play. They want to enjoy life. No kid should have to go outside in their front yard and find a gun.”
St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter added that companies profiting off of these kinds of crimes need to be held accountable.
“We see the shooters being held accountable and the purchasers being held accountable, but until we break the profit chains that allow some company or cooperate actor to make a dollar, some regional manager to make a quarterly bonus off of selling 33 firearms in just a couple of months, we’ll continue to be behind the eight ball.”
The lawsuit announced Wednesday focuses on four Fleet Farm locations in the Twin Cities.
Ellison said more lawsuits could be on the horizon.
“We’re not prepared to make announcements today so I would say if you’re making these sales, stop and stop now,” he said.