When Mackenzie Hunter is sentenced in January for illegally providing the handgun used in Salt Lake City’s Trolley Square shootings, in which five people died and four were injured, it is not clear whether any families or survivors will be invited to stand in a courtroom and share how their lives were changed by gun deals that contributed to the Feb. 12 incident. The Salt Lake Tribune says the families are not legally considered victims in federal gun prosecutions stemming from the tragedy, because prosecutors say there is no evidence the four men charged knew how the guns would be used. Yesterday, Hunter pleaded guilty to two counts, including a reduced misdemeanor count of transferring a gun to a minor.
Because the shooter was fatally shot by police, the federal gun cases are the only crimes that will ever be prosecuted in connection with the tragedy. Cases with no primary victims are fairly common, said Jeff Dion of the National Crime Victim Bar Association. Indirect victims formerly could make their voice heard by suing people who sell guns later used in crimes. In 2005, however, Congress halted such suits. The only exception is when a licensed firearms dealer breaks the law to sell a gun. The fact Hunter knew the shooter might commit a bank robbery, but not a shooting, does not free him of all responsibility, believes Stacy Hanson, one of four survivors: “They make bartenders liable for serving too much alcohol to someone. To me, it’s the same thing – it’s creating a dangerous situation.”