Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Alaska Reviews Federal Gun-Shop Liability Law

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Alaska Reviews Federal Gun-Shop Liability Law

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- A Bush-era federal law that protects gun dealers from being liable for murders committed with guns from their shops is under fire in an Alaska court case that has led the Justice Department and gun-control activists to intervene.

At issue is whether a Juneau gun dealer is liable for letting a disheveled homeless felon leave his store with a rifle he used to murder a total stranger. The family of the murder victim, Anchorage contractor Simone Kim, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit that has made it to the Alaska Supreme Court.

The Kims are challenging the constitutionality of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which effectively protects the gun industry from most lawsuits.

"It's a very important case. This is the first state Supreme Court that will be deciding the breadth of the law as it applies to gun dealers who supply criminals with guns and profit from that," said Jonathan Lowy, an attorney with the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence in Washington, who is acting as co-counsel for the Kims.

Jason Coday, a drifter with a police record in Utah and Nevada, arrived in Juneau on Aug. 2, 2006. Within hours, Mr. Coday walked into Rayco Sales gun shop wearing a garbage bag around his waist, which was filled either with his belongings or with a sleeping bag - - there's some dispute over that point.

"Throughout the surrounding weeks, [Mr.] Coday [had] repeatedly exhibited bizarre behavior, with at least 18 encounters with law enforcement throughout the West, ... including walking around with a sawed-off shotgun and a bandolier of extra ammunition, hallucinating that people were laughing at him, and standing on the roof of a bank," according to lawyers representing Mr. Kim's family.

Mr. Coday struck up a conversation with the owner of Rayco Sales, Ray Coxe, telling him that he wanted to look at a .22-caliber long rifle.

Mr. Coxe showed Mr. Coday several rifles, including a $195 Ruger. Mr. Coday, who was not legally allowed to possess a firearm, said he would think about it. The gun-shop owner said he went to the rear of his store to take care of other things after Mr. …

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