For Release: Fiday, November 15, 2002
On Thursday, November 14, 2002, a jury in Florida found Valor Corporation, a gun wholesaler, liable to the tune of $1.2 million for distributing into the marketplace a Saturday Night Special that failed to incorporate safety features. A basic safety lock would have prevented 13-year-old Nathaniel Brazill from firing the gun and killing his teacher, Barry Grunow. This is the first time that liability has been imposed on a gun distributor for its complicity in making guns like the Saturday Night Special available to children and other unauthorized persons. In response to the precedent-setting decision awarding a total of $24 million in damages to Mr. Grunow’s widow, Pamela, Mathew Nosanchuk, the Violence Policy Center’s litigation director and legislative counsel, issued the following statement:
“The jury’s decision takes a significant step toward imposing responsibility on the gun industry for its role in making guns like the Saturday Night Special available to youths like Nathaniel Brazill. This jury did not impose liability on Valor Corporation for what Brazill did in shooting the gun. On the contrary, the jury imposed liability on Valor for what it did namely, send a Saturday Night Special without a safety device out into the marketplace, such that it could be used by children and other unauthorized persons. In addition to lacking any safety device, the Saturday Night Special is poorly-made, compact, easily concealed, inexpensive, and accurate only from short distances in short, extremely well-suited to use by criminals and youths. The gun industry should be treated no differently than any other industry that is held responsible for flooding the market with cheap, poorly made, and unsafe products.
“The Florida jury demonstrated that it understands that the gun industry can be held liable for the failure to incorporate a safety device into a handgun that would have prevented Brazill from shooting his teacher. Unfortunately, Congress now is considering sweeping legislation that would shield the gun industry from any lawsuits at all, whenever the harm is caused by criminal or other unlawful misuse. The bill, H.R. 2037, introduced in the House of Representatives by Florida Republican Cliff Stearns, would make it harder, if not impossible, for individuals like Grunow, to hold the gun industry responsible when it acts negligently or recklessly. Representative Stearns should not block the citizens in his home state, or anywhere else in the U.S., from having their day in court and holding the gun industry responsible for its actions.”