Tragic Death Follows a Negligent Gun Sale in Missouri

Wrongful Death
Gun Sales to Mentally Ill

By Sean Lally, Staff Writer

According to a recent Washington Post article, in 2013, Janet Delana sued Odessa Pawn & Gun Shop for negligence after they sold a weapon and ammunition to her daughter, Colby Sue Weathers. Ms. Weathers had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and had previously tried to kill herself. Knowing her daughter would attempt to purchase a weapon, Delana begged the gun shop not to sell Weathers a gun. The gun shop sold the firearm anyway. Shortly after purchasing a black Hi-point pistol, Weathers returned home, where her father sat at his desk, and shot him. As she told a 911 operator, she planned to commit suicide thereafter but was not able to go through with it.

The Missouri Supreme Court allowed Delana to file suit, verifying that under federal law nothing could stop her from suing the shop. Eventually the Odessa Pawn & Gun Shop settled in 2016, agreeing to pay Delana $2.2 million, while maintaining that they had done nothing wrong. The manager, Derrick Dady, had this to say: “I can’t just go by what a phone call says. If the person that comes in […] passes the background check, I can sell them a gun.”

In some ways Dady isn’t wrong. It may be the case that he was entitled to sell Weathers a weapon, due to gaps in the background-check system and a lack of restrictions on selling guns to the mentally ill. The shooting happened in 2012, well before an Obama-era rule was enacted to regulate the sale of firearms to people with mental illness. But even if that rule had been enacted, Dady still would have been able to sell Weathers the gun. Why? Because the regulation disqualified people who receive federal disability payment and who have someone else handle their finances. Weathers did not satisfy these criteria.

The Wider Context

Trump and Republicans in Congress decided to repeal the regulation that would have prevented gun sales to mentally ill people. This move is part of a much broader strategy on the right to repeal Obama-era regulations by way of an obscure law known as the Congressional Review Act. This law essentially allows Congress to repeal any regulation 60 legislative days after its enactment and only requires a simple majority to do so. Republicans in the House and Senate have been racing against the clock to roll back as many rules as possible, going back as far as May 2016.

Additionally, according to an NBC News report, the Obama Administration predicted that as many as 75,000 names would be added to background-check databases if the measure were able to take full effect. This would have been a major victory for lawmakers such as Lloyd Doggett (D-Tex) who, in response to the National Rifle Association and the American Civil Liberties Union, said, "The American people and the families that are being hurt day after day by gun violence -- they deserve some due process too." Of course, there are those in Congress who disagree, such as Kevin Brady (R-Tex.) who said that the regulation “discriminated against certain Americans with disabilities who receive Social Security benefits. The agency should be focused on serving all of its beneficiaries, not picking and choosing whose Second Amendment rights to deny.”

Each side has its rationale, but for people like Janet Delana, it is very difficult to see the other side knowing that one’s life can be ruined with a single purchase and a mere click of the trigger.

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