MO Settlement Called Powerful Message to Gun Sellers

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Janet Delana of rural Missouri was desperate to stop her mentally ill adult daughter from buying another handgun. She called the police, then the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms and Explosives, then the FBI, the Washington Post reports. Finally, Delana called the gun shop a few miles from her home that had sold her daughter a black Hi-Point pistol a month earlier when her last disability check had arrived. Now, the next check was coming. Delana told the store her daughter was a paranoid schizophrenic who had tried to kill herself. Her father had taken away the other gun.

The daughter never had been identified as a threat to herself or others by a judge or ordered to an extended mental hospital stay, which meant she could pass the background check for her gun. The store sold the woman a gun, and she killed her father.Delana sued the Odessa Gun & Pawn shop for negligence in the 2012 sale and won a Missouri Supreme Court ruling that said nothing in federal law barred Delana’s type of lawsuit. Under state law, the court ruled that dealers can be held liable if they should have known a buyer was dangerous. Last fall, the gun shop agreed to pay Delana $2.2 million. Gun-control advocates say the state court’s decision, combined with Delana’s settlement, are significant victories for those who want to reduce gun violence by changing the financial equation for the firearms industry. The case, brought by the Washington, D.C.-based Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, provides a legal road map for similar lawsuits. The Brady Center says there are at least 10 other civil cases pending, including in Florida, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Texas. Jonathan Lowy of Brady said the Missouri case sends a “powerful message to the gun industry nationwide, and to the companies that insure them, that if you supply a dangerous person with a gun, you will pay the price.”

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