(Fargo, ND) -- UPDATE: Fleet Farm representative Jon Austin has provided a written statement to WDAY Radio Now in response to a firearms related lawsuit announced Wednesday by Minnestoa Attorney General Keith Ellison.
"We strongly disagree with the Attorney General’s lawsuit. We comply with all applicable gun laws and devote substantial resources to training and compliance. It is disappointing that Attorney General Ellison filed his complaint without ever once talking to us. It’s also worth noting that at the time of the tragic shooting in Saint Paul described in the Attorney General’s complaint, we were told by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms that our team members had “done nothing wrong” and had complied with all applicable gun laws. We are confident that we will prevail in this matter," said Austin.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced a lawsuit Wednesday against Fleet Farm for allegedly negligently selling firearms to straw purchasers, aiding and abetting criminals, and contributing to gun trafficking in Minnesota. Ellison says as gun trafficking and crimes in which guns were used in Minnesota surged during the COVID-19 pandemic, Fleet Farm "repeatedly sold handguns to straw purchasers".
Ellison defines straw purchasers as people who illegally purchase guns for others who cannot legally purchase guns themselves, such as people convicted of felonies, people with a record of committing domestic violence, and people with mental illness. Ellison asserts Fleet Farm sold at least 37 firearms to two straw purchasers over the course of 16 months,
“It’s my job to help protect Minnesotans’ safety, pocketbooks, and dignity — and you can’t have a real a real conversation about public safety in Minnesota unless you’re talking about the proliferation of guns,” Attorney General Ellison said. “Gun dealers and retailers have a duty to be the first line of defense against people who try to illegally obtain guns and provide them directly to criminals or blindly resell them for profit on the black market. But instead of fulfilling their legal obligation to detect and prevent straw purchases, Fleet Farm ignored multiple red flags: they took money from straw purchasers and looked the other way. They put their own profit over Minnesotans’ safety.
A Fleet Farm representative had not responded to a request for comment from WDAY News First by the time this story was published.