Owners of a southeast Kansas gun shop sued for selling a weapon that a man used to kill himself and his 8-year-old son have reached a $132,000 settlement with the child’s mother, according to lawyers in the case.
The negligence lawsuit filed in Cherokee County in 2005 by Elizabeth Shirley involves the murder-suicide of her husband, Russell Graham of Baxter Springs.
Shirley sued Joe and Patsy George, owners of Baxter Springs Gun and Pawn Shop, claiming the Georges were negligent in the 2003 sale of the gun to Graham’s grandmother when Graham, a convicted felon, was present at the sale and unable to buy it himself because of laws preventing felons from possessing firearms.
Graham used the shotgun to shoot himself and his son, Zeus Graham, later that day.
The Kansas Supreme Court ruled in 2013 in the case that firearms dealers must use the highest degree of care in preventing the sale of guns to a felon. That ruling reversed a 2010 Kansas Court of Appeals ruling that said the Georges could not be held to the “highest standard of reasonable care in exercising control over firearms” and sent the case back to the Cherokee County District Court.
Cherokee County court documents show the case was dismissed May 20.
Dan Gross, president of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said in a prepared statement Wednesday that the settlement is a “major victory” in the center’s campaign against what it calls “bad apple” gun dealers.
“Our message is simple: if you profit by selling guns to criminals, we will find you and hold you accountable,” Gross said.
The Brady Center, which argued the case before the Kansas Supreme Court and the state appeals panel, said the owners of the gun shop agreed to settle for the “maximum amount available under their insurance policy, as well as a financial contribution from their personal assets.”
According to the lawsuit, Graham went to the gun shop with his grandmother, Imogene Glass on Sept. 5, 2003, the day of the murder-suicide.
The lawsuit alleged she bought the gun through an alleged “straw sale,” where one person fills out the legal forms and buys the gun for someone else. Glass testified that when Joe George asked whether Graham had been a “good boy,” he said he had a felony conviction.
Glass also testified Joe George handed her the federal form used to determine if buyers have a record that prohibits them from buying a firearm. She testified that after she filed it out, Graham paid cash for the weapon.
The Georges have said they did not know Graham was a convicted felon and assumed his grandmother was paying for the gun legally.
Scott C. Nehrbass, a Kansas City area lawyer who represents the Georges, said his clients settled for $132,000.
“My clients are very good people who did nothing wrong and obviously have never admitted any liability,” Nehrbass said.
He said $100,000 of the settlement came from their insurance, and $32,000 came from the sale of Joe George’s deceased mother’s home and the money had been in escrow for several years.