We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again: the vast majority of negligent discharges are a comedy of errors. Or, as is too often the case, a tragedy of errors. One after another. In this case, it started with a stalker. “In 2000 Tiffany Hardware turned to a family friend who owned a pawn shop for advice on getting a gun for protection,” ajc.com reports. “According to Lloyd Bell, one of her attorneys, Hardware worked at a call center at night and had been frightened when someone followed her to the home she shared with her daughter, her mother and her brother.” Family friend? Methinks Macon pawn shop owner Ronald Richardson ain’t so friendly no ‘mo. Here’s what went down . . .
Hardware paid $89.95 for a new Bryco/Jennings pistol [not shown] that Bell said Richardson had bought “in bulk” a year earlier.
According to testimony, a few weeks after buying the gun a friend tried to fire the gun but it jammed. Hardware took the gun back to Richardson, who at the time was working at a liquor store he also owned.
See how that works? First, Ms. Hardware chooses a $90 gun. Next, she buys it from a guy who admits the main reason he stocks the gun is that he got a deal on a job lot. A guy who owns a liquor store.
Don’t get me wrong. I believe in a gun for anyone who wants one. Or two. Or more. As the commercial says, chef don’t judge. If someone wants to make, buy, possess and/or carry a cheap ass gun, so be it. But anyone who does so gets what they don’t pay for: safety, reliability, accuracy, customer service, etc.
Richardson tried but failed to move the pistol’s slide that was locked in place. He removed the magazine but there was a live round in the chamber and the gun was cocked.
Richardson returned the gun to a zipped case and told Hardware to bring it to the pawnshop the following Monday, when his “gun guy” would be at work and could look at it, according to testimony in the week-long trial.
So Richardson, the gentlemqn who sold Hardware the hardware, wasn’t a “gun guy.” Warning bells much? Quick break for some background on the 9mm Jennings/Bryco pistol via Mr. Saturday Night Special at bryco-jennings-jimenezarms.com:
Bryco Arms/Jennings Firearms Bryco Arms was one of the so-called “Ring of Fire” manufacturers of Saturday Night Special firearms that operated in and around Los Angeles, California. It produced firearms branded as Jennings Firearms at its Irvine, California facility and branded as Bryco Arms at its former Carson City, Nevada facility and at its Costa Mesa, California facility.
Bryco Arms went into bankruptcy in 2003 as a result of losing a lawsuit filed in Oakland, California, which resulted in a jury award of a record $24 million judgment against it. The lawsuit stemmed from an injury to a 12-year old who was attempting to unload the 380 ACP version of the Bryco Arms Model 38 and pulled the trigger with a round still in the gun. An ensuing accidental discharge resulted in paralyzing a young boy named Brandon Maxfield. The jury ruled that the pistol had a design flaw, in that it had to have the trigger pulled to de-cock the striker after unloading the semi-automatic pistol.
Many, if not most, semi-automatic pistols with external hammers utilize a similar design, which has found widespread use since early Colt Firearms first used this method around 1905. Notable among pistols which require hammer decocking is the standard US Military issue pistol for over 70 years, the Colt M1911.
Comparing the Bryco M59 to a Colt M1911 is a bit of a laugh. What happened to Ms. Hardware’s 14-year-old brother is not.
Later that evening, Billy Bullard was shot in the stomach when Hardware dropped the gun as she was putting her purse and other items on the dining room table. Hardware and a friend rushed the teenage boy to the hospital but he died while his sister cradled him.
You’d be forgiven for wondering if someone’s finger was on the trigger at the time of the fatal gunshot, given that most modern guns are drop-safe. This one was manufactured by the pre-2003 Bryco Arms, exact vintage unknown. Which is kinda important. Bryco Arms recalled the Model 38 in 2001 for “drop safe” issues.
Bottom line: it’s entirely possible the bullet left the gun when Hardware’s bag hit the table. A costly occurence for all concerned.
Hardware also sued the owner of the company that made the gun, now-defunct Bryco Arms. She won a $2.2 million default judgment against Bruce Jennings, the owner, because he did not appear at trial.
Then the jury decided after about seven hours of deliberations that Richardson owed her $6 million. Another $1.4 million in interest was added. Richardson did not respond to a telephone message left Tuesday afternoon.
State Court Judge Wesley Tailor ordered both sides to negotiate a settlement to avert an appeal of the award.
The judgement will most likely get walked down to something a part-time gun dealer/part-time liquor store owner might be able to pay, should he live long enough. As for Bruce Jennings, I doubt they can touch him after all these years. Meanwhile, it looks like the jury doesn’t think personal responsibility for gun safety is a thing at the low end of the market. Well, is it?