A Missouri gun dealer, Odessa Gun & Pawn, has settled a lawsuit alleging that it neglectfully sold a pistol to a woman who used it to murder her father. The dealer settled the Brady Center-backed lawsuit for $2.2 million.
Attorneys from the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence believe that this will lead to additional lawsuits against gun shops in other states.
“I think this case sends a resounding message to gun dealers across the country that if they put profits over people, we will make them pay with consequences,” attorney Jonathan Lowy told the Kansas City Star. “We’re taking the profit out of supplying dangerous people with guns.”
The team filed the lawsuit against the pawn shop after it sold a handgun and ammunition to Colby Weathers. Weathers’ mother, Janet Delana, contacted Odessa Gun & Pawn previously with detailed information about her daughter and her state of mental health.
Weathers suffered from schizophrenia and suicidal intentions. Delana says she warned store employees on June 25, 2012, not to sell Weathers another handgun after she attempted to commit suicide with a pistol she bought from the Odessa Gun & Pawn. Delana included Weathers full name, social security number and date of birth in her plea.
Two days later Weathers bought another handgun and ammo from the dealer — presumably passing a background check. Less than an hour later she shot and killed her father, Tex Delana. After the shooting, Weathers plead not guilty to murder by reason of a mental defect or disease and was institutionalized.
The initial lawsuit against Odessa Gun & Pawn was dismissed. The Brady Center attorneys persisted and took the case before the Missouri state supreme court. That court unanimously found that the lawsuit could go forward under the state’s negligent entrustment law.
While many parts of the firearms industry are protected from general negligence lawsuits under the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), Missouri’s negligent entrustment law states that a party can be held responsible for the actions of a second party if they have solid grounds to believe they are about to break the law and cause harm.
According to the lawsuit, the the Odessa Gun & Pawn violated federal gun laws and regulations in ATF reports. While the shop wasn’t shut down over the violations, they argued that it had a history of negligence.
With the state supreme court allowing the case to proceed Odessa Gun & Pawn moved to settle the case rather than take it to a jury trial. The pawn shop agreed to pay out $2.2 million to Weathers’ family.
“I am proud,” said Delana at a local press conference, writes KCUR. “I don’t want to take anybody’s gun away, I don’t. But there are some people who don’t need guns. And my daughter was one.”
Gun control advocates see this as the new path to limiting gun ownership. As it becomes less and less likely to pass new federal gun control laws, gun control groups are moving to take the fight to civil courts across the country.
“Rather than fighting the political headwinds, the coalition is focusing on courts and state regulatory agencies, among the few places where they might still gain some traction,” explains the New York Times. “The coalition is drafting lawsuits and preparing regulatory complaints that could be announced as soon as next month, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.”
This gun control coalition is lead by the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence and also includes the Brady Center and the Brennan Center for Justice. The coalition has tapped top law firms to turn local and federal laws and regulations against those in the gun industry.