The lawsuit alleges that several firearms vendors have engaged in illegal straw purchasing transactions which have supplied Philadelphia’s crime gun market and perpetuated gun violence across the city
PHILADELPHIA — Today, the City of Philadelphia announced that it has filed a lawsuit against several firearms vendors that it alleges have recklessly and repeatedly engaged in straw purchasing transactions, consequently fueling gun violence in Philadelphia. Two vendors located in Northeast Philadelphia, Frank’s Gun Shop & Shooting Range and Delia’s Gun Shop, and Tanner’s Sports Center located in Jamison, PA, are named in the lawsuit filed by the City of Philadelphia with co-counsel Everytown Law and the law firm, Kramer Levin. Jointly, these three vendors are the source of more than 1,300 crime guns recovered in Philadelphia from 2015-2019, the last years for which this data is publicly available.
Straw purchasing occurs when a buyer purchases firearms with the intention of illegally transferring them to someone else or supplying the criminal gun market. The City’s lawsuit alleges that Frank’s Gun Shop & Shooting Range, Delia’s Gun Shop, and Tanner’s Sports Center have persistently proceeded with firearms transactions despite unmistakable indicators of illegal activity—including high volume, multiple-sale transactions involving duplicate or near-duplicate firearms, open collaboration between buyers and others in-store, and the presentation of false identification to store clerks.
The complaint cites criminal court filings which indicate that these vendors have collectively sold at least 158 guns to at least 32 straw purchasers between March 2018 and March 2022. Guns sold by each vendor named in the lawsuit have been used in homicides and non-fatal shootings and continue to be recovered in Philadelphia in connection with crimes such as a home invasion robbery, narcotics possession and distribution, vehicle theft, and other violent crimes. These weapons are often found in the possession of minors, individuals with prior felony charges, and others prohibited from owning or buying a gun.
This lawsuit aims to stop the named vendors from continuing to facilitate straw purchasing transactions and to require them to adopt written policies to prevent further straw purchasing. Additionally, the City of Philadelphia is seeking damages in the form of financial compensation to address the harms caused by gun violence in our communities, which has been facilitated by the illegal activities of the vendors named in the lawsuit.
“On a daily basis, Philadelphia residents are coping with tragedies perpetuated by criminals with guns — criminals who should never have access to guns in the first place. Today, the City of Philadelphia is taking legal action against dealers who have ignored red flags of illegal gun trafficking for the sake of profit,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “I am confident that this lawsuit to stop straw purchasing transactions is a significant step in making our neighborhoods safer.”
“With over 215 fatal shootings this year alone, Philadelphia is in a gun violence crisis and we are doing everything within our legal power to stop weapons from infiltrating our streets and getting into the hands of criminals who are harming residents and devastating our communities,” said Diana Cortes, City Solicitor. “This lawsuit aims to hold the defendant gun dealers accountable for the destruction they have contributed to and to stop them from participating in illegal straw purchasing transactions, through which they have supplied Philadelphia’s crime gun market and perpetuated gun violence.”
“Fighting gun violence is not the sole responsibility of the Philadelphia Police Department – we view this as a crisis we are all coming together to help resolve. Once again, many of our City departments are working collaboratively to decrease the number of guns on our streets, especially illegal guns.” said Tumar Alexander, Managing Director. “Earlier this month, we came together when our Law department announced lawsuits to stop two of the biggest suppliers of ghost guns in our city. Weeks later, we are coming together again to share our collaborative efforts with additional lawsuits against several firearms vendors that allegedly have repeatedly engaged in straw purchasing transactions, which significantly adds to the number of illegal guns on our streets – many carried and used by our youth. As always, we thank the Philadelphia Police Department for their great work to reduce gun violence and City Council for their ongoing support.”
“The scourge of gun violence continues to plague our city, and our stakeholders must take decisive action to address this pressing issue,” said Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw. “The announcement of the lawsuit against these gun shops underscores our commitment to combating illegal firearms and the devastating consequences they bring. Straw purchasing transactions not only violate state and federal laws, but they also pose a significant burden on law enforcement’s efforts to keep our communities safe. We stand firm in our resolve to hold accountable those who enable the flow of illegal weapons into the wrong hands. Together, we will work tirelessly to dismantle the channels that fuel gun violence and create a safer future for all who live, work and play in our city.”
“By allowing straw purchasers to buy guns in their stores, the defendants are allowing high risk individuals who are barred by state law from buying or owning guns to gain easy access to guns they use to commit violent crimes. We know how to prevent many acts of gun violence. We need to keep guns out of the hands of people with a history of violent acts, particularly those with a history of firearm offenses. By holding those few store owners who persistently fail to enforce straw purchasing laws accountable, we can begin to address the trauma, deaths, and disability they are helping to create,” said Dr. Cheryl Bettigole, Health Commissioner for the City of Philadelphia.
“City Council is proud to support this important litigation involving another set of actors and factors that help fuel an excessive amount of gun violence in Philadelphia,” said Council President Darrell L. Clarke. “The well-documented facts in the litigation make clear: Some gun stores are knowingly selling multiple numbers of firearms to individuals whom the stores knew – or should have known – were in reality “straw buyers”, individuals buying guns in bulk and then selling them illegally on the streets of Philadelphia to other people with no legal right to possess a gun. This is another critical problem in our city, and the Kenney administration should be commended for going to court to hold these stores accountable under city and state law.”
“Gun dealers have a legal responsibility to not ignore suspicious purchasing behaviors that indicate illegal gun trafficking or straw purchasing,” said Alla Lefkowitz, Senior Director of Affirmative Litigation for Everytown Law. “By diverting guns into the illegal secondary market through obvious straw purchasers, Delia’s, Frank’s and Tanner’s have fueled the city’s gun violence epidemic and put the lives of Philadelphia’s children and families on the line. This lawsuit is a critical step forward in holding these dealers accountable and it should be a warning to any other bad-faith dealers who put profits over the law and public safety.”
“The scourge of gun violence is a serious threat to Philadelphia and many communities across the country,” said Jordan Estes, partner at Kramer, Levin. “Stores that allow straw purchasing are a critical part of the gun pipeline fueling the gun violence epidemic, and this lawsuit seeks to hold them accountable.”