Odessa Gun & Pawn Shop

The Badger Guns case received a lot of media attention last week. No surprise there. A Milwaukee jury awarded two police officers more than $5 million worth of damages. They ruled that Badger Guns should have known that a gun buyer was a “straw purchaser” (a non-prohibited person buying a gun for a prohibited person). Badger was held liable for the cops’ injuries, sustained after the “real” buyer shot them. The case is on appeal. Meanwhile, there’s another somewhat similar case percolating through the system . . .

To make a long story short, a Missouri woman named Colby Sue Weathers was a diagnosed as a schizophrenic and had a history of suicide attempts. On May 29, 2012, she bought a .40 caliber Hi-Point handguns from Odessa Gun & Pawn Shop.

According to Michael Bloomberg’s anti-gun agitators at thetrace.org, she told her parents about the gun after she failed to kill herself. Her father “promptly got rid of it.” A month later, Weathers’ mother Janet Delana called Odessa Gun & Pawn, fearing that her daughter would use her Social Security mental disability payment to purchase another handgun, with tragic consequences.

On June 25, 2012 she phoned Odessa to ask them not to sell Weathers a weapon. “I’m begging you,” said Janet, according to a legal brief provided to The Trace [ED: by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence]. “I’m begging you as a mother, if she comes in, please don’t sell her a gun.”

On the phone with a shop attendant, Janet went into detail about Weathers’ psychiatric condition, giving him ample information with which to identify Weathers, including her date of birth and Social Security number. Janet requested that the clerk write the information on a piece of paper to keep next to the register, so employees could reference it should Weathers come in. She hoped that if they knew about her daughter’s suicidal obsessions, they would refuse to sell her a gun, as Missouri law permits gun sellers to use individual discretion when making or denying a sale. But the clerk told Janet that he couldn’t make any promises.

Two days later, on June 27, Weathers walked into Odessa looking for another handgun. Despite Janet’s warnings, Odessa apparently took no extra precautions. There’s no indication that the clerk had written Weathers’s information down, or whether they had asked her any questions about her purchase . . .

Weathers left the store that day with a new Hi-Point .45. Derrick Dady, the same clerk who sold Weathers a gun a month earlier, supervised the sale. At home an hour later, Weathers approached her father, who was sitting at the dining room table, and shot him through the back of his chair. Ten minutes later, she sent a text to Janet, who was out of the house at the time. “Dad is dead” it said. Weathers was later charged with murder, but the court accepted her plea of not guilty by reason of insanity.

With the “help” of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Violence, Weathers’ mother sued Odessa. [Click here to read the complaint.] The court threw out the lawsuit; it fell afoul of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. Brady is appealing (not literally). But the question remains: should Odessa have refused to make the sale?

Couple of points to consider.

  • There is a big difference between a moral and a legal obligation to stop a firearms sale
  • Weathers was never involuntarily committed to a mental institution. She passed a federal background check.
  • As thetrace rightly points out, “The National Shooting Sports Foundation advises gun sellers to ‘to engage the customer and ask enough questions to draw out information on their background and intentions. If suspicions arise, it is more prudent to follow the precautionary principle of politely refusing the sale.'”

All that said, never underestimate the importance of incompetence. Odessa may have simply dropped the ball; they may have refused the sale if they’d recognized the danger. Even so, this is a valuable thought experiment. On a personal note . . .

I once asked a local liquor store to stop selling alcohol to my (then) wife. The owner continued to do so. I was saddened, but not angry. I figured he was under no obligation to prevent a legal sale. Nor did he know if I had just cause to make the request. Like firearms dealers, or car dealers, he bore no responsibility for what someone did with a legally sold product. And my wife would have purchased alcohol somewhere else.

Your thoughts?

135 Responses to Question of the Day: Should A Gun Dealer Respect a Family’s Request Not to Sell a Gun?

    • Or they simply didn’t believe the Mother. We weren’t there, don’t have all the facts, and should probably withhold judgement.

      Side note: isn’t “getting rid of” someone else’s firearm usually a felony?

    • So, I can call a local gun store and tell them that TITAN308 is a danger to himself and others. That would be ok with you? How did the gun store know the call was ligit? Using your thought process, the Brady Campaign can troll FaceBook for gun owners and then start making fake calls to LGS and keep good old Mr. TITAN308 from acquiring those evil guns. Maybe the family should have had the daughter committed. If they had not sold the gun to her, she would have just kept going to other guns stores until she was successful. To think otherwise is stupid.

        • Having read both the article and complaint, I’m struggling to agree with you.

          My immediate reaction was that they should have declined the sale. Part of being a safe gun owner and dealer is not providing weapons who proactively seek to harm others.

          However, the counter presenting to you post is valid – there is nothing in the claim to support an assertion that the mother demonstrated her relationship. Rather, she provided significant PII, of which mine is readily available thanks to OPM, and alleged her daughter’s condition (the complaint further fails to claim that documentation was provided to the dealer to substantiate the allegation of mental unfitness). While the effort would take a little more than “trolling Facebook”, it would be possible for me to cut off sales to you should this be case be won and viewed as precedent-setting.

          If the daughter entered the store during a period of lucidity, that would have only further evidenced a need to disregard the claims of the “mother” from the phone and a good thing at that since the shop must take ownership of its decisions to sell (or not), rather than allowing a third party to do so.

          Frankly, if the daughter was such a threat to herself, and expressed such threats towards others, why wasn’t she involuntarily committed? I know out mental health system is in shambles, but I doubt she would have been left on the street and certainly should have been monitored.

        • Please tell us instead how the article outlines that the Mom provided proof or evidence that her story was even true.

          Here’s what it says: Guy at gun store received a random phone call telling him why he should not sell a gun to some lady. That she offered id-ing info is irrelevant; there’s NOTHING in such a phone call to demonstrate veracity of the claim.

          Do you really want to put retail clerks in the middle of deciding who is mentally competent or not and based SOLELY on a faceless voice on the other side of a telephone?

          REALLY?

        • Please TROLL308, tell us how you know I didn’t read the article from thetrace.org of all places. Inquiring minds want to know

    • “Sorry need to say it: shit bag business. I’m sure I’ll get flamed, but I’ll sleep OK at night.”

      Consider yourself flamed. You’re making an irrational, emotional argument.

      Suppose I call up all the FFLs within 80 miles of where you live, claim to be a family member, and state that you’re a wackado?

      I guess if you ever manage to buy a gun from any of them, they’re all sh!tbag businesses.

      Don’t be a moron…

      Why is the first word in your statement an apology? Because you know you’re wrong.

      • Whatever floats yer boat.

        Edit: I am however of the belief that one’s life is their own and if they want to pop themselves in the noggin they should have the freedom to do so. In this case however she murdered someone.

        • What she ended up later doing with the gun has no bearing on whether the business is shitbag or not for making the sale. The store had no way of knowing even that something bad was more likely than not going to happen.

    • It boggles my mind how so many consumers think a business is omnipotent. That was a fantastically ridiculous request by the mother. There is no mechanism in place to honor the request the way that she made it.

      If the mother was really that concerned about her daughter, she could have had her committed. If she really believed she was that suicidal, then why did she only bother to make a 5-minute phone call to a store counter clerk.

      If she’s actually been that concerned and thought it was a real threat, then committing her would have had a chance to get her help and certainly would have been the proper mechanism to prevent a purchase at not just that one pawn-shop, but from any other dealer as-well. Instead the mother took the lazy way out and shipped all the burden of her daughter and family’s safety onto a store counter clerk. Really? WTF Lady.

    • Here is a thought. It’s the parents fault. They should have had her committed after the first purchase and threat of suicide. That would have been involuntary. This should have triggered this info to be sent to NICS and then she could have never lawfully bought a second handgun and shot her father.

      You say bad business practice. I say bad parenting.

      • Her state does not require reporting mental health records to NICS. It’s allowable, but not mandated. Nor does federal law presently require reporting commitment for observation only, even if involuntary.

        I won’t blame the store either. What a boon it would be for domestic abusers if they actually listened. “don’t sell XXX a weapon, It’ll be used against me later”.

  1. no they should not have sold it. the MORAL obligation should trump the legal one in situations like this. that shop should be shut down. they are painting other gun store owners and us as apathetic cut throats, not to mention their business practice got someone killed.

    • Shut them down? On the basis of having violated what pre-existing, valid law? Or are we driven by emotion and doing the ex post facto thing now, as the Constitution bans.

    • that shop should be shut down.

      By whom? By the government? But that would imply there was a legal, not “merely” a moral obligation, that was not met.

      By the owner? That would be the proper thing for him to do, but I’m not holding my breath; it is his livelihood after all.

      By boycotting it to the point of unprofitability? Much better answer. Moral failures are best addressed by one’s fellow man refusing to have anything to do with the immoral one.

      • Having read (and learned from) the comments of editors, I am going to have to qualify what I just wrote. It assumes the business has real reason to believe that the buyer will do something wrong with the gun, even though the background check comes through OK. That likely wasn’t the case in this specific instance.

    • If someone is suffering from a disease, mental or physical, and they feel that suicide is their best option to stop their pain and suffering, it is IMMORAL to prevent them from doing so.

      A life belongs to it’s owner. Not the public. It’s up to the owner of said life to decide if is indeed worth living.

      • When someone is truly suffering it is the moral duty of their family to assist that person’s recovery to the best of their ability. To let them kill themselves in a bout of depression or insanity is just callous.

        • @Anthony: Agree with you on this Anthony. However, back to the article, it is ridiculous to think that the owner or employee of the gun store is responsible in this case. The mother made one phone call to one gun shop and she thought that would stop her daughter from buying a gun ? She must be living in another universe to really think that would stop her daughter. Committing her daughter would have been the intelligent and right thing to do to try to prevent her from harming herself or others. Then her name would likely have shown up on the database and her request to buy a gun would have been denied. Of course she might have then used some other tool to kill herself or someone else. But at least it would not be with a GUN so I suppose that would have been OK, right ? Thousands of people kill themselves or others every year without using a gun.

    • And yet the mother was too lazy to make the trip to the store and talk to the owner, and to make the trip to all other stores in the area. But not too lazy to sue.

  2. If the family really wanted to keep her from buying a gun, if she was really that much in danger of suicide, why didn’t they involuntarily commit her?

    Asking one gun store to not sell her a gun was desperate and optimistic. Not thinking of other guns stores was stupid.

    • Yeah honestly… I’m not trying to blame the victim, but there ARE systems in place to deal with situations like this. She should have been committed.

      Outside of that though – bad sh*t happens to good people. Its a fact of life. No amount of “I told you so” after the fact can make the gun store responsible for the acts of a crazed individual.

      • Are there, though? Speaking from experience, it’s not easy to commit someone, even when they have made clear suicidal threats. Often the people we call to evaluate them will come over, talk to them, and suddenly the person in question says they’re fine and not going to hurt themselves. Oops, nevermind!

    • Exactly this. This isn’t about guns, or the seller. Its about a parent who didn’t want to make the tough call to have her daughter committed like she should have been.

      The nanny state comments on this thread make me want to puke.

  3. While tangentially relevant, the alcohol example is not really the same thing. First of all, there is a big difference between selling someone a bottle of vodka and selling someone a gun. Sure, the alcoholic could get hammered, get behind the wheel and still kill someone, but I think you’d have a hard time passing the “reasonable person” standard if you tried to equate the danger level of the two.

    With respect to this case, I do believe gun dealers have an obligation to go beyond the letter of the law. First of all, consider the fact that we live in a time when firearm sales are under great scrutiny. It is also a time when mental illness plays a big role in the tragic shootings that happen on a monthly basis. I think we all cringe each time we hear about another mass shooting, just waiting to see if this is the straw that breaks the camel’s back and we find ourselves defending against legislative action.

    People who should not get their hands on guns do get their hands on guns. In some of the more recent cases, it is shown that the killer went through the NICS system and was able to procure a gun legally. Many on this board argue that this shows how NICS is broken, worthless and should be abandoned wholesale, but that is simply not going to happen in the current climate. Instead, we all have to find a way to come up with a system that guarantees ready and quick firearm access to responsible citizens while doing a better job to screen out the loonies. It’s a herculean task with no easy answers, but one we need to try and figure out.

    In this case, the gun store was given ample warning about a potential nut job. It likely would not have killed them to forgo the few bucks they made on the sale of a High Point and some ammo. They could have done a better job. On the other hand, Janet should have asked to speak with the manager or owner rather than tell her story to the counter guy. Even better, she could have visited the store personally to make an appeal and provide the store with a picture of her daughter.

    In the final analysis, it was a failure all the way around which led to the death of one person and the commitment of a second into state care. A pity that a murder had to be committed before someone who deserved it got locked up.

    • They got “ample warning” from an unverified source with no legal standing. If the parents cared so much, they should have had their daughter committed or adjudicated mentally incompetent. (5 will get you 50 that they actively blocked said adjudication)

      The reality is that the store had no way of knowing if the claim was legitimate. If they treated all claims as such, a stalked could just call up all local gun stores to make sure that their victim couldn’t arm themselves.

      • Not to mention, if they had written down and displayed all the information the mother gave them, they would have been in violation of PCI Compliance rules and faced very hefty fines for not properly securing personal data.

    • There should be, by definition, no obligation to go beyond the letter of the law. At least not until humanity as a species evolves clairvoyance.

      That’s why it’s the law – it sets a minimum acceptable standard of behavior / care / due diligence / whatever. Otherwise you will have people getting prosecuted for following the law but not going “above and beyond”.

      That is a very slippery slope to set foot upon – it makes, in the end, every transaction, nominally legal or not, subject to post facto prosecution and punishment.

  4. The only problem with family requests like that is that it can be abused. The gun shop has no way to know if the family member is actually telling the truth, or if they are merely trying to make sure the person cant get a gun for other reasons. If the person is so mentally unstable that they are a threat to themselves and others, the need to be committed and made a prohibited person. The fact that they are then a prohibited person needs to then actually get communicated to NICS.

    • Bingo. NICS is the primary screening mechanism that FFLs have to prevent sales to “people who shouldn’t have guns.” Personal judgment is a good backup, but it’s not reliable. Neither is a request to one FFL to have them put a sticky note on the cash register. That’s like asking the closest Dairy Queen to check everyone’s ID before selling sundaes because your kid is allergic to peanuts.

      It’s a problem that NICS is not transparent nor open. If NICS checks are not going away, I’d at least prefer to see a system more like credit scoring, where a person wishing to purchase a gun can check their own approval status, see any disqualifying conditions and challenge incorrect information to get it removed.

      • Yup, I have seen people who were acting a bit erratically be subtly denied service at gun stores. This guy was in a store with what I assumed was his girlfriend, they seemed young but could have been 21 (they were looking at the handgun wall) and he was putting off strong mall ninja vibes and was asking a few questions that presupposed some heavy misconceptions. Imagine Bobcat Goldthwait in fingerless leather gloves with a ratty backpack in a gun store. He was asking questions *about* guns but not asking to see any directly (as far as I recall) and the clerk was kind of shutting him down with terse answers until he lost interest or took the hint.

        The guy was giving of a very strange impression and when he started talking several people around took notice instantly.

        What happened to this woman’s father is tragic, but the impression one gives at the counter and the NICS check trump a random phone call.

        If your’e going to be afraid of your daughter getting a gun because she is likely to hurt you or others, you need to be afraid of her coming up behind you with a knife, or poisoning your raisin bran, or setting your house on fire while you sleep, or…you get the idea. The danger comes from the person, not the store who sells her the implement.

        It’s funny how truth continues to be true.

      • Would you like to see NICS transformed into something where anybody can for any reason make someone unable to buy a weapon?

        Oh, the antis would *love* that!

        (Pssst! So and So is crazy!!! Don’t sell them a gun!!!)

        • No, but that kind of rights-SWATting is already being pushed in the form of Gun Violence Restraining Orders, which don’t seem to have any kind of accountability or due process attached. If I could pull up my NICS file like getting a credit report then at least I could have some degree of due process to get it removed.

          While I might consider something like that an “improvement,” don’t get me wrong–it’s really nothing but feel-good fluff. Anyone bent on hurting or killing people isn’t going to be stopped by a GVRO whether it’s done through NICS or not. All I’m really saying is that if I’m being judged, if my rights are being restricted, I deserve a chance to see and contest why, and there ought to be a transparent process for restoring those rights.

    • How many times has this happened to the gun shop, where someone places such a call? I think it warranted more attention than the store gave.

      • Do you know how much or how little attention the store gave? All it seems we know is that two days after the phone call, the information given by the Mom did not stop the sale of the firearm.

        Perhaps the store DID BOLO the lady for part of that two day interim. That’s speculation, but it’s likewise speculation to say that did nothing at all.

  5. My question is ultimately why DIDN’T the parents get their daughter committed? She could have just as easily poisoned everyone in the house or used a knife in the middle of the night.

    • Agree. The parents and the state failed in their duties. Now they want to blame the gun shop. In so doing, they first must be held accountable for their failures. Simply blaming the gun shop reminds me of the adage about the farmer who slapped his wife because the cat spilled the milk.

  6. I’m with the mother here. It is the obligation of the seller to be aware of their customer. It is a very low bar, for example if the customer is audibly talking to someone who isn’t there or is obviously making a straw purchase, they at the very least should take a closer look at who the person is if not outright calling the police. In this case no work was required, they ignored a very clear warning and were negligent in doing so.

    • Please tell me how an anonymous phone call from who knows who and where definitively shows that person “should not” be sold to.

      That call could have been from anyone…what if a stalker knows his victim is going to arm herself, follows her to the gun store and while she’s inside, calls the store with a plausible story about the lady.

      You are asking the gun store employees to make judgments they don’t have all the facts for.

      If they get a call like that, does that merit additional looking into? Yes. Maybe.

      Don’t forget that several states are pushing the “Violent Person Restraining Order” thing now…suspension of rights with no due process. That’s little different than what you are asking the gun shop to do with even fewer facts and resources to verify than that.

      In other words, be careful what you wish for.

    • A good chunk of schizophrenics are perfectly lucid a large portion of the time. If she had the mental cohesion to go buy a gun, it was unlikely she was in the middle of an episode.

    • They ignored a very clear warning from some random person who called and gave them personal and illegal medical info. So you are saying if I don’t want someone to own a gun all I need is a little info on them and call all the local shops and make up some lie about them being dangerous? Because that’s is what you are saying would lead to.

      If the person passes a background check and doesn’t set off any red flags while in store in is absolutely not the shops responsibility to listen to the random person who called them and gave them illegal and unverifiable info. That would be a stupidly dangerous precedent to set.

      Also them Wal-Mart is responsible to know all of the millions of people who visit them and might buy something dangerous. Even saying a smaller gun store should be able to know all of their customers and be able to make judgement calls on each and every one of them is painfully naive and impossible.

      • It’s NOT “illegal” medical info. There is no law that would apply in this situation with regards to medical info.

      • Another simple “Ian” posting. I’ll have to adjust my posting name to differentiate us. Even though my opinion on the matter is pretty close to yours.
        As Hannibal stated, it is not illegal for a family member or even a stranger to talk about anybody’s medical status. It’s physicians that are restricted from releasing the information. However, a business posting anything more than a name and loose description on their counter or cash register is looking for a whole world of trouble. Putting stuff like SS#’s and potentially libelous materials on display where the public can see them is the absolute wrong thing to do.
        If it were me who answered the phone AND was waiting on the customer I like to think I would have given a brief bit of research while waiting for the NICS check to complete. Maybe even called back the person who originally called. However, having worked retail it is an unfathomably stupid idea to suggest that having a staff meeting to discuss every phone call we got from an unhappy customer. Since they can’t post all that information on the register it would have been the only way to alert all of the staff. Maybe possible at a smaller business but if you set that standard then do places like WalMart get a free pass just because it would be too much of a hassle?
        In the end it was tragic but the fault does not fall on the pawn shop owner. Who knows. Maybe he even saved a family because the suicidal person did not resort to driving into oncoming traffic. Shoulda, coulda, woulda . . . as much as it hurts those around them the life belongs to the one who lives it and lives with the decisions it makes.

  7. If I knew a shop had done this, I would not do business with them. I don’t know that they should be liable, but they would certainly lose me as a customer. People using their conscience to shop is also part of the free market. It’s not all about prices.

  8. Odessa was in a bad position because of the crazy lady’s mother. If the daughter was a threat to herself or others, the mother could have gotten a court order or an appointment as her daughter’s guardian, conservator or whatever the status is called in the jurisdiction. And that would be that.

    Instead of meeting her responsibilities, she tried to push them off on the gun store. And now she’s blaming the gun store for her own negligence and poor parenting. So who is really to blame here?

    • Once again Ralph nails it. Even as a moral obligation a phone call falls far short. Suppose mom (or a vengeful ex wife) is just anti gun and decides to dump on the daughter/son/ex husband by making up a lie to cause trouble for them. If you have a child who is suicidal, a phone call to the LGS is not how you try to protect them. This would be described as at best a half hearted effort at best!

      • ^^^ THIS.

        Out of the hundred failures that made this situation possible, why is the mother focusing on the *ONE* that is someone else’s fault?

        Its because she doesn’t want to take responsibility for the other 99 failures to adequately act.

        Hindsight is 20/20 – I’m sure that store clerk is hating himself right now, but at the end of the day he was only peripherally responsible. He didn’t live the the crazy lady, he wasn’t related to her, he did know her personally, nor did he have any direct responsibility to “save her from herself”.

        The mother, however, did have all of those things, and yet we are to believe some clerk making $9.50/hr is now responsible for the well-being of some chick who walks into his shop and everyone she interacts with thereafter??

    • At the very least, the Mom could have gone in there with a copy of the report (police, medical, whatever) from the first suicide attempt, or SOMETHING to verify her claim. That may have elevated the shop’s responsibility some…

      But as it is, some random call telling them “don’t sell to so and so” is weak at best.

      But hey, looks like a lot of 20/20 hindsight based convictions going on here…proof that the meaning of “liberty” is a slippery one and many just can’t grasp it.

      • Liberty (in this case) means:

        Because you are the sole owner of yourself, you, and you alone are responsible for what happens to yourself as a result of your own voluntary actions.

    • Yep. The mother apparently knew there was a problem and took a silly measure to try to deal with it. The dealer got a weird phone call. Things were apparently already out of control, I don’t see expecting someone else to get a phone call then solve the problem.

    • Ralph, while needing a conservator is generally cause for prohibition (involuntary commitment for observation is not) even that tactic may not have worked.
      Missouri authorizes, but does not require mental health records be submitted to NICS. They are “made available” for that purpose, but there is no requirement anything further be done.

      Truth is, when it’s an adult child, there is sometimes very little even the parents can do.

  9. As RF pointed out, she could have gone somewhere else, if refused by Odessa. I’m wondering if the woman went to the gun shop by driving, walking, or public transportation?

    By all means, call the gun shop. Don’t take away the car keys, hide the check book, or lock up the kitchen knives when someone fails at suicide. Certainly, under no circumstances, call the doctor. Or, parts of this story are missing.

    • Yeah, maybe she would have gone to some other gun shop that wasn’t warned. But thank the Lord, she didn’t have to- and they got their money.

  10. I don’t always agree with Robert on feelings/politics etc, but this time I wholeheartedly agree with the following passage:

    I once asked a local liquor store to stop selling alcohol to my (then) wife. The owner continued to do so. I was saddened, but not angry. I figured he was under no obligation to prevent a legal sale. Nor did he know if I had just cause to make the request. Like firearms dealers, or car dealers, he bore no responsibility for what someone did with a legally sold product. And my wife would have purchased alcohol somewhere else.

  11. She could have simply gone somewhere else and gotten a handgun. If the mother was as concerned as she was then she should have petitioned to have her daughter involuntarily committed to make sure that she would not pass a BG check in the future.

  12. No, Moral or otherwise, the gun store cannot be responsible for the interdiction by a third party if the purchaser at their establishment presents themselves as a competent person and fills out the form. BARTENDER RULES: IF THEY’RE LEGAL TO BE THERE AND AIN’T DRUNK OR CRAZY, AND DON’T ORDER PISS OR POISON, SERVE THEM UP.

    From a different angle: The mother threatened the daughter that she was going to shoot her, the daughter said “not if I buy a gun to protect myself first” (‘gun shop’ being the only one in town or the vicinity) Mother calls gun shop and says “my daughter’s deranged, don’t sell her a firearm”, mother kills unarmed daughter.

    • DING DING DING!

      A phone call is not only wholly and completely inadequate basis to refuse service to someone, it is more often than not (IME) an indicator that the opposite is true.

      With all the crazy, desperate anti-gun people out there – would you take an anonymous call telling you to deny someone service and their civil rights seriously?

  13. Lizzie Borden, anyone? Guns aren’t needed to do ugly things.

    And if I owned a business, liqour, gun or widget, I’m going to need a whole lot more than a random phone call from a total stranger to refuse service to a paying customer.

    Lot of fail in this case. None that I can say was the gun sellers.

  14. Should they have sold the gun…I’m going to say no, but are they negligent…no. That would imply that they broke or failed to follow the law or procedures, and they did not. We’re I a store owner and had that information, I would have told my employees not to sell her a gun, using the discretion option.

    I understand the parents not wanting to stigmatize the daughter, but if it’s that bad…bite the bullet so to speak and commit her and make sure that the flag is there. The choices suck, but if it were my kid I know what I’d do.

  15. Should her parents have a moral obligation to commit their daughter? Hell yes! Not the stores responsibility. Why the hell did mom give her daughters SSN to a complete stranger but not do what was needed to get her child help?

  16. I’m going to lay this one squarely at the feet of the parents. They should have had their daughter adjudicated mentally incompetent and had her name added to the NICS system. It’s not the store’s responsibility to keep track of who can and cannot buy a gun. It would be especially wrong of them to make this determination based on a phone call from a person who may or may not have an axe to grind.

    Would we be ok with a stalking victim being prevented from buying a firearm because their stalker called local gun stores and told them the victim was “mentally unstable”?

  17. Two things: crazy people are well-practiced at appearing perfectly reasonable at need, and I do not expect any store to refuse to do business with someone over a blind phone call. It’s as if the mother expected them to do her job and be the “bad guy” for her. The wrong person’s being sued, here.

  18. If the “crazy” woman was actually quite lucid when she entered the store then it would likely have made the sales person skeptical of the mother’s claims.
    If I called a gun shop and said “don’t sell my daughter a gun. She’s crazy.” I certainly wouldn’t expect that to carry any weight.

  19. As I recall, there was a move to have the VA declare anyone that had someone else take care of their finances as ineligible to possess firearms.

    I’m no expert on this, but it would seem if someone is getting a “mental disability check” from SSA…last time I checked a Federal agency…it would seem like that would somehow find its way into NICS…also administed by a Federal agency…given the current administration.

  20. No legal responsibility to act, but I would’ve taken down the information and evaluated her as best I could as a layman across the counter. If she seemed seriously off, I stall her and call the cops to come decide what to do with her.

    Regardless whether there is any moral obligation to act, and regardless whether that intervention would change anything, simply as a business decision I wouldn’t sell to her. I wouldn’t want the inevitable bad publicity and law suit if she freaked out.

  21. Odessa is 30 miles from Independence. How likely is it that if the Odessa store had refused her, that she would have given up and not acquired one elsewhere? With a “long history of mental illness”, it seems to me (as much as it pains me as a parent to say it) the parents would be considered to be the more negligent and not the store.

  22. Couldn’t the family have had here committed? If the Pawn shop has any responsibility in this, the family surely has much more.

  23. This was a failure on both sides.

    The woman should have been treated upon diagnosis. After a suicide attempt she should have been committed. Unfortunately, this is hard to accomplish. Treatment is expensive and insurance companies won’t pay for much of it. However, even a brief involuntary commitment would have put her into the NICS database especially if the parents insisted.

    It is legal to sell to a person diagnosed as mentally ill but never “adjudicated mentally defective” or “committed to a mental institution” (form 4473 language). Therefore, I think the store is off the hook. Still, I think it would have been wise for them to decline the sale. It’s not that hard to maintain your own, private, no sell list. The supermarket I patronize does that for customers who have burned them with bad checks. However, that’s not going to stop a determined person from going to store after store until she succeeds.

  24. “Should A Gun Dealer Respect a Family’s Request Not to Sell a Gun?”

    How many of you have family members that are anti-gun?

    How many people have family members that are controlling?

    How many people have family members that physically abuse them?

    In a word no.

    What a person does is their business not their families.

    • Ding. Ding. Ding.

      All the blaming the store is doing is deflecting from the HUGE elephant in the room.

      We are constantly inundated with calls for UBC’s and better screening of those rascally people that “should not have access to eeeevillll guns.”

      But…we HAVE such a system in place for precisely cases like this. The mechanism WAS there to prevent this. But it failed.

      Why did it fail?

      Because people are too eager to put responsibility on others (the State, the gun shop, etc) in the first place.

      So, to add to the question you posed, let’s take it one step further. If NICS can fail, as it does spectacularly and often enough, what makes the anti’s think UBC’s will be any better?

  25. How was Weathers able to pass a background check? If the woman truly has that many problems, were the proper authorities notified of all this?
    Anyone could have faked the call, assuming they had the SS number etc. The gun store might have taken extra precautions and scrutinized the sale more carefully, since they were made aware of her condition in advance.

  26. “I once asked a local liquor store to stop selling alcohol to my (then) wife. The owner continued to do so. I was saddened, but not angry. I figured he was under no obligation to prevent a legal sale. Nor did he know if I had just cause to make the request. Like firearms dealers, or car dealers, he bore no responsibility for what someone did with a legally sold product. And my wife would have purchased alcohol somewhere else.”

    Agh, that’s so so sad. But your reasoning is on par with mine. How does the gun shop know that’s really her mom? There’s got to be a better way to make that happen. I am having trouble thinking of one. Involuntary commitment I guess. 🙁

  27. Ehh…. In this day and age of information and manufacturing, I’d question the family that isn’t getting help for someone who is so amazingly stupid and helpless that s/he can’t just make a gun. That extreme level of helpless and clueless borders on mental defect by itself…

  28. So if a gay couple (please don’t get into tangential debates here) can sue a bakery for refusing them service over something that is *NOT* constitutionally protected right, couldn’t someone sue a gun store for refusing service for X, Y, or Z reasons?

    • No, sexual orientation is a protect class, gun owners are not. This shouldn’t need to be explained to you as they are not remotely applicable.

  29. Not only should the store have sold her the firearm, they shouldn’t have taken down medical information and the social security number.
    Both of those actions violate numerous privacy laws. There are laws concerning medical and private information, and mental health history and SSN are certainly covered, and the mother wants that information out next to a register for any employee to see? That’s absurd.
    You can’t ask a store to violate the law to prevent a sale.
    The mother could have contacted authorities and had her daughter committed, or otherwise had her daughter flagged as dangerous and the daughter would not have passed the background check.
    Imagine you go into a gun store, where you will be a repeat customer. You pick out a firearm, you fill out the 4473, you pass the background check, but the clerk looks at you and says “You know, your mother came in here and said we shouldn’t sell you a gun because she fears what you may do with it” and your mother is actually exceedingly anti-gun and doesn’t like that you compete in 3-gun. Your mother is simply slandering your to business to make it more difficult for you to purchase a firearm.
    There were plenty of legal avenues available to the mother to prevent her daughter from obtaining a firearm, but she chose not to avail herself of these. You can’t place that blame on others.

      • Are you suggesting the gun shop is a medical care provider as defined under HIPAA?
        ——————————
        Medical Record and privacy laws don’t just apply to the medical profession.
        An employer for example cannot ask you questions about your health, because your employer is not entitled to that information.
        If you have someone’s medical information, you either need a specific legal reason, or the person’s permission.

  30. I work in a position that often has parents coming in trying to control what their children have access to.
    It’s not my job to parent your kids. You don’t want your kid to have access then you control that access.
    Same goes for this situation.
    I had a family member who was a self-destructive drunk. Delusional family members went around to local liquor stores asking the clerks not to sell to him. Of course the clerks ignored the requests.

    Get your own house in order and quit expecting others to do it for you.

  31. There is also the very real possibility that (not in this case) the person might be calling with fraudulent information to try and block a sale. I am a pharmacist and I have a legal obligation TO fill prescriptions for people unless there is proof that something illegal is happening – regardless of what other people may or may not call and tell me. I cannot deprive someone of their right to medication because of what it legally hear-say (spelling??). The shop has a duty to a person to provide them with a means to defend their life and property IMO. I think the ruling in this case will be overturned and should not have gone the way it did to begin with.

  32. So all I should need is a little info on someone, then I can call around to gun shops and lie to say they are dangerous and they won’t be able to buy guns? Yeah, that sounds like an awesome idea.

    If the person doesn’t fail a check, and doesn’t set off any red flags in store then the sale is just fine. Some random person calling and telling you what to do and how to run your business should be ignored.

    • Such an awesome idea that in California the authorities will go to your victim’s home and steal all their guns if you ask them to.

  33. When I worked for an FFL we had this exact thing happen. A guy bought a gun, his mother found out and called, telling the manager he was suicidal. The sale was cancelled and his money was fully refunded. Simply, it was not worth the legal troubles that might arise if we had ignored her and something terrible had occured. Whether she was being truthful or not, he was living under her roof and for whatever reason, she was afraid of him having a gun. Armchair minute men can bring the hate, but it wasn’t my gun shop, and it wasn’t his own home to make the rules in. Not work the risk.

  34. I call you up, you don’t know me from Adam. I ask that you deal with someone ELSE in a certain fashion without ANY evidence to MY claims. You are supposed to act on my feelings, based solely on what I chose to tell you, with no way to verify the allegations. Think about that for a second.

  35. I have a friend with an adult daughter with some mental disorders. Involuntary commitment is not as simple an answer as most people think. Despite having a well documented file of what the daughter had done (breakdowns, suicide attempts, assault, runaway)while a teen, the mother had a nearly impossible task of getting her appropriate help against her will.
    HIPA laws prevented her from even being able to discuss things with her daughters doctors.

    Its not against the law to be mentally ill.

    • That is the long and short of it. Having had personal experience with this, with adults you are fairly powerless to intervene…or even discuss the issue with outside help without written permission.

      Even after repeated suicide attempts, parents are lucky to force a 72 hour observational commitment. (which the feds do NOT require be reported to NICS).
      Nobody is institutionalized long-term merely for suicide attempts. That hasn’t happened for 30 years and the suggestions otherwise just plain won’t happen.
      They are only held until the immediate crisis passes, even it it has only “passed” long enough for the subject to be released to try again. This can go on for months or years without NICS having a clue.

  36. Not held reliable. Caller didn’t do the heavy lift effort to commit her mother to a mental institution. Instead she low lifted a phone call to a business that had no obligation to deny the sale.

    It’s called abdication of responsibility. The belief that a 3rd party would provide action required to save either her mother or father.

  37. As has been said on this site many times about criminals and why the gun laws fail all the time, if that gun store didn’t sell her the gun, she simply would have gone to a different store to obtain the gun.

    Overall, it is a sad, tragic situation.

  38. Like others have outlined above, how many times has this happened because of jealous/angry/spiteful spouses, family members, significant others etc etc etc and the person didn’t go and pop themselves or someone else? Anyone? This story sure tugs at the heart strings, and a lot of it would depend on how small the community was and how well they knew of this woman’s issues.

    If it is just the mom calling and nagging them Id tell to stay out of it and do the sale. If the clerk knew she’d tried to kill herself and had her first gun taken away and was showing up to try again, it’s hard for me to see how I would sell her the gun if I was in their footsteps but ultimately that’s between him and whatever higher power he thinks he will be judged by.

  39. Ugh. You cannot legislate morality for every set of circumstances. Only set broader rules by which we must all abide. Had I been in the same situation I would not have sold the weapon. However, a law that states “Dealers may not sell to otherwise-qualified adults if their parents ask them not to” would be a huge affront to liberty.

  40. If this happened in a small town where everyone knows one another, then it’s quite likely that the gun store would have refused to sell the item, for moral reasons. Community works better than government.

      • Wait. Really sarcastic? Cuz I thought it was a pretty good point.

        At least it could have elevated the store’s culpability beyond some random person calling on the phone to talk about a random third party (from the store’s point of view). The Mom would have had a MUCH better case in her claim that the store should have known if it was a small enough town where it is likely people know each other and the names of people that have attempted suicide.

        {shrug}

        • It was sarcastic because the gun store is located in a small town – population about 5,000. Obviously community failed this time.

  41. Missouri has an excellent involuntary commitment law. In my Prosecuting Attorney years, I used it to commit half a dozen individuals who most assuredly needed to be off the streets, because they were paranoid schizophrenics who had not only threatened but, without harming anyone yet, had also acted out said threats.
    Anyone who believes another to be a threat to themselves or others can go to the probate court and complete a request for the person’s involuntary commitment for 96 hours in a mental health facility. The request describes the specific threats or actions involved, a list of all witnesses to any relevant behavior, and is signed under oath. If the probate judge finds it appropriate, a 96-hour commitment order issues, the police pick the person up and transport. On arrival, within 3 hours, the person is given the opportunity for voluntary commitment, and advised of their rights should further detention be requested by the facility, including the right to appointed counsel.
    Another route to the same result is a complaint to a police officer, who has the authority, if necessary, to pick up the person and transport them to a mental health facility. If urgency is required, the officer can pick the person up first, and complete the required affidavit on arrival at the facility. The basis for this commitment has to be on the officer’s personal observation, not what they were told by somebody.
    As soon as the person arrives, the facility is required to perform an intake assessment and, if determining the person isn’t an imminent threat to themselves or others, release them. Within 18 hours after arrival the person MUST be examined by a licensed physician, and released if not an imminent threat. On the other hand, if the doctor decides they are dangerous or suicidal, the facility petitions for a 21-day commitment. If the patient objects, the court must conduct a hearing within two days of the objection, with counsel appointed to represent the patient, if necessary. A treatment plan is also required.
    In order to hold the patient more than 21 days longer, the facility has to apply for a 90-day extension. If that doesn’t straighten them out, the facility can apply for an additional year.
    For commitment beyond 21 days, the petition for extension requires a sworn statement from a licensed physician as to the threat of harm. If the patient requests, the judge appoints an independent doctor to give a second opinion. The longer commitments allow the patient to demand a jury trial, and require a diagnosis of mental ILLNESS as opposed to mental DISORDER such as drug or alcohol addiction or plain eccentric behavior. I can assure you, Brothers and Sisters, that getting an involuntary commitment is NOT a walk in the park for the Prosecutor.
    The law is about as even-handed as possible. No room for a pissed spouse to run the husband up the flagpole for grins, and it can get the dangerous people off the street fast if necessary. It builds in plenty of judicial oversight and equal protection. In this case, it might have saved a life. Everybody is presumed to know the laws – a necessary fiction – but here, this dangerous condition was ongoing for a long time, at least since the first suicide threat. Even if the family didn’t know about the process, doctors know. Police know. I’m skeptical that somebody along the line never once discussed commitment before the fatal purchase, and I suspect that the family, for whatever reason, declined that opportunity. From interviewing these families, it’s an agonizing decision, but gun store owners shouldn’t be denying sales based simply on a telephonic non-medical opinion, even if the caller claims to be the mother. If the article is true, and that call had been made to a police officer, the woman would have been receiving much-needed medical treatment instead of committing homicide.

    • The problem is that it isn’t uncommon for the truly suicidal to be able to reel it in long enough for the observer to call it “no immediate danger” and release them. You can’t tell there’s a thing wrong until the rope goes over the bridge.

  42. Is Due Process not a thing anymore?

    Why didn’t mommy call the proper authorities, and begin the proceedings that would, through Due Process, ensured that her mentally ill daughter could not obtain a firearm?

  43. I absolutely believe that gun store employees have a moral obligation to stop a sale that they believe is wrong. They are granted that discretion and are not required to complete any sale. If they suspect that the buyer is unstable, or making a straw purchase, or that anything else unsavory is going on, they should refuse the sale.

    That does not translate into a legal obligation, either criminal or civil. You can’t always spot a straw buyer. Some people with mental health issues can pull it together and act perfectly normal. The background check system is flawed and passes people who should be denied. You can miss a little slip of paper tucked next to the register. I could go on and on with reasons why a moral obligation is not a legal one. Bad things happen to good people. It’s a sad reality that gun grabbers can’t seem to accept.

  44. Having a few crazy people in my life(son and ex-wife) I certainly can relate. Neither have been adjudicated insane/mentally defective. The son walked into a house in a psychotic haze and got a felony conviction(but he didn’t actually steal anything or commit a violent act).He was also on his own for years. The ex never was committed(as far as I know). It is oh so hard to get someone help if they don’t want it(which is why we have a “crazy homeless” problem). I don’t blame the gun shop but I also don’t blame the family. Look at the Lafayette movie shooter-he was clearly crazy/evil. His family couldn’t do a damn thing about it.

  45. Consider the source:
    “According to Michael Bloomberg’s anti-gun agitators at thetrace.org, …”

    In court this would be considered hearsay.

    Until I read about the other side of the story, ESPECIALLY on anything in the left-wing press, I automatically assume the information is unreliable.

    In fact, I am ASSUMING this is made up, as part of the national progressive coordinated campaign to grab guns, for The One’s legacy. The more noise the better, to distract from his administrations failures, and the complicity in same, by HRC in foreign policy, and Democrats in general in the economic shambles left by their agenda the last 7 years.

  46. Considering the potential consequences of being charged with fraud when found in possession of someone else’s SSN and DoB, I think they may have done the right thing by not maintaining that information. Sure, they may have it on their background check forms already, where it’s legally allowed to be recorded, but just hanging out on a sticky note, near a register, where anyone could see it – that doesn’t sound smart at all.

  47. NEWSFLASH!!!

    Minority Report is a MOVIE (and a recent TV show) and therefor FICTION, PRETEND, and is not real!

    How does the shop know the call isn’t a prank or in some way malicious? We are always wise after the event but I can see little the shop could have done.

  48. How has it been substantiated that Janet actually spoke to someone at the store? Why would anyone at the store believe Janet’s story if the phone call was made? Why did Janet use a telephone and not go to the store in person considering it was so important to her? Does an assumed moral obligation subsume legal responsibility? If so, explain why?

  49. I am now certain that a sizable portion of the American populace is wholly incapable of objective thought. We are so doomed…

  50. It is convenient to blame parents and the store, but for many with mental health issues they have many contacts with a variety of agencies, from police to the courts to “experts” in the field.
    I worked psych crisis long enough to know that often you have err on the side of safety, where I know many providers were afraid to involuntarily commit patients out of concern for potential stigma.
    I think I also believed that there are truly dangerous people out there, some evil by nature and some under treated.
    So a long statement, in case like this there is often a lot of responsibility to be shared.

  51. she phoned Odessa to ask them not to sell Weathers a weapon. “I’m begging you,” said Janet,
    That is the problem in that this is a he said, she said, we said event.
    No real proof to the gun store owner.
    So your anti-gun relative calls in and tells the store not to sell you a gun and that you are a nut. What happens now?

  52. this is on the parents. they had a mentally ill child they could have had her committed. even just a 72 hour suicide hold would have tripped the background check instead they put this off on a company that has many customers even had the agreed and seriously tried to not sell the gun to that one individual it may have slipped through anyway. bottom line if someone in your family is suicidal or otherwise mentally ill and you don’t have them committed it is on you

  53. Interesting question and comments. I am conflicted. I also think about the many discussions of “how come these crazy shootings did not happen pre-1968 when people could just walk into stores or order guns for home delivery?” There were plenty of crazy people and there was no NICS, so nowhere to report them, even if they had strangled kittens out in the middle of the town square. However, I have a strong feeling that if a gun store clerk felt you had a screw loose, or indeed if your mother called and said you did have a screw loose, (1) the clerk, whether owner or employee would have cared and (2) if you came in and showed even a glimmer of nuttiness, you would have been politely denied service. Depending on the size of the town, the owner of the store might have suggested that you get help, or might have even called the police. Because back then the owner had no worry about being sued; private problems and perversions stayed in the closet; and on the other hand if a loved one took the time to call, I bet most reasonable gun sellers would have listened carefully and taken discreet action. Yes, a truly crazy person could have gotten a gun through mail order, but how many actually did? Even now with the internet, Armslist, and all the rest, I think even fed.gov says that most guns are sold face to face in a store. For most people, safer times back then?

  54. No one seems to have mentioned the obvious; if she was on Social Security disability payments for “mental instability”, she should have been on the NICS list. That is not using any manner of secret information, somebody had to submit that information willingly to get that MONEY, a perfect opportunity to put the name on NICS. Problem solved.

  55. OK, look at it this way…. Suppose you’ve got family that knows you’re into guns and they try to use this method to sabotage your efforts to expand your collection.

    If you’ve got a crazy kid that is a danger to themselves or others, do what it takes to get them committed. This is on the mother, not the gun store. Background check was passed.

  56. I don’t think the store had a legal obligation not to sell her a firearm, but since a business can refuse to serve somebody, if *I* had been the owner, I would have put her on a do-not-sell list.

    I don’t hold the store responsible, but I’m okay with missing out on selling a Hi-Point in order to sleep at night.

  57. The dealer had no reason not to do business as they could not evaluate the call requesting not to sell. It’s like suicide, very difficult to control. There is no law which can stop these things.

  58. “I once asked a local liquor store to stop selling alcohol to my (then) wife. The owner continued to do so. I was saddened, but not angry.”

    And had the local liquor store stopped selling to your then-wife, she just would have have driven further (likely while drunk) increasing the chance she could injure-kill someone while drunk driving.

    I fully understand why you made contact with the liquor store, but I believe you didn’t fully think through the ramifications. You just wanted her to stop the drinking.

    Speaking as someone who has imbibed far more than my fair share of ETOH in my past, reasoning with an addict (your then wife, in that case) just doesn’t work.

    It’s not nice, but it’s reality.

    (For your daughter’s and your sake, I hope she does get it together. It *can* be done. It may take multiple attempts.)

  59. I’m calling BS on the whole story. As some have pointed out, if she was on Social Security disability payments for “mental instability”, she should have been on the NICS list. I think the whole thing may be a Bloomberg fantasy story. Now, I will also admit I didn’t read any of the linked articles so if there is verifiable proof the incident actually happened, I apologize.

    But as to the original question posed: no, the store should not have been expected to take an anonymous caller at face value to deny the sale… if it actually happened.

  60. Why was she able to purchase a gun in the first place?! I know in my state if you have a mental condition and/or have been admitted to a mental hospital, you are not permitted to purchase a firearm. I think the gun shop should have upheld the mothers decision and not sell her daughter the pistol. The mom knew of the daughters ill intentions and obviously knew she had a menal issue, if they were smart they would have listened and refused to sell her the gun…especially the same freaking guy.

  61. I worked a Gander Mountain Gun counter years ago with a similar situation. While we had a very strict no return policy, the store I worked at had two different occassions when we took a recently purchased firearm back when a family member insisted the purchaser (a father with dementia in one case and a son with severe depression in another case) was a danger to themselves or others with a firearm.

  62. My take is it’s the stores descretion but if the store knew the customers and took that phone call it’s iffy at best. I would think though that the parents should have visited the store instead of called. My feeling is (unless you know them personally) a phone call can be anyone. OTOH, a personal visit or letter from the parents would have made a lot more sense.

  63. Why legally the store was under no obligation to not sell this person a gun, had I been the employee on the other end of that phone, I would have immediately called the police and notify them. Maybe they would get off their lazy ass’s and check into it. Had she come in anyway, I would have found some way to stall her, and called them again. I would not have sold her a gun. A business has the right to refuse service to anyone for any reason. There is a difference in legal gun rights and morality. The sad fact is that almost all mass shootings are committed by someone with a serious mental illness, and AFTER the shooting, the cops find plenty of evidence to show they had serious mental issues. Had they known about this BEFORE the crime, it might have been preventable. I am a gun owner, and 100% for gun rights. But I find it hard to believe that any responsible gun owner would support the sale of a gun to anyone when there is evidence that they might have serious mental issues. Most gun owners and gun rights activists are fond of saying “guns don’t kill people, other people do” That is 100% correct. And here was a “person” who should have been seriously investigated before being allowed to buy a gun. The warnings were there, why were they ignored?

  64. I believe it’s up to the gun store to do what they want as long as it’s legal. Were I the store owner I would’ve initially suspected the phone call as by a malicious former bedmate, tantamont to a restraining order request. But when the lady came in I’d informed her of the call and judge by how she would react and go from there. If she seems off, I’d definitely reconsider the sale.

    • But just because she is mental it doesnt mean she can’t have a gun, though. A person too dangerous to own a gun shouldnt be on the street, mental or criminal. If NICS shows up ok, i’d probably go with the sale. But again it depends on her demeanor.

  65. As a 1st Sergeant, I got a number of calls from spouses. There had been a fight, the soldier was out of the house and the spouse wanted me to deal out punishment. There seemed to be a script that hit: “take his civilian clothes, confine him to barracks, have him report to the CQ every hour, take his keys…”
    My reply was to ask if they would make the same phone call to a civilian business? That they needed to get a court order and bring it in.
    Turn the case around. My spouse goes to the gun store and lies about me being suicidal. I’m refused service. I then sue. The gun store really doesn’t have a defense. Why:
    1. No proof
    2. No diagnosis
    3. No official paperwork

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