Janet Delana did everything she could to try to stop her 38-year-old, mentally ill daughter, Colby Sue Weathers, from buying a handgun that would kill her husband of nearly 40 years.
She called the police, ATF, the FBI, and finally the gun shop that sold her the Hi-Point pistol a month earlier even though her disability check had come in the mail. She pleaded on the phone telling the store manager about how her daughter was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, how she tried to kill herself and that her father had taken away other guns from her in the past and was worried that her daughter would go back to buy another gun.
“I’m begging you,” Delana said through tears. “I’m begging you as a mother, if she comes in, please don’t sell her a gun.”
Even though her daughter was mentally ill, she was never considered a threat to herself or a threat to others according to the judge and was never ordered an extended stay at a mental hospital. So in other words, she would be able to pass a background check for a gun.
The manager of Odessa Gun & Pawn shop, where her daughter bought the handgun, Derrick Dady, said that he recalls her seeming nervous when she asked for a similar gun that she bought last time.
An hour after leaving the gun store, Weathers went home to where her father sat in front of the computer and she shot him.
According to Weathers, she had planned on killing herself as well. “I can’t shoot myself. I was going to after I did it, but I couldn’t bring myself to it,” Weathers told the 911 operator.
“After everything I did, they still sold her a gun,” Delana said. “The more I thought about it, the madder I got. I wanted someone to pay.”
Delana sued the gun shop for negligence and won for the previous gun sale in June 2012. Under Missouri’s state law, the court ruled that dealers can be held responsible if they had known the buyer was dangerous. Last fall, the gun shop settled with Delana saying that it had followed the law and did not do anything wrong. They agreed to pay Delana 2.2 million to settle the wrongful-death case of her husband.
“I can’t just go by what a phone call says,” Dady said in a deposition. “If the person that comes in . . . passes the background check, I can sell them a gun.”
Gun-control advocates view the court’s decision with Delana’s settlement as huge victories for people who want to reduce gun violence.
According to Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, this case provides a legal road map for similar lawsuits across the country, it is said that there are at least 10 other civil cases pending.
Jonathan E. Lowy, Brady’s legal director who helped with Delana’s case, said it 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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