KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) - A Missouri gun shop is facing a wrongful death lawsuit after selling a handgun to a woman who is charged with using it to murder her father.
The Washington-based Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence brought the suit on behalf of Janet Delana, who said she warned the gun store not to sell any guns to her daughter, Colby Sue Weathers, because of a long history of mental illness.
The suit comes at a time of growing concern about the mental state of people who perpetrate gun violence. Gunmen in shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut and at a movie theater outside of Denver, for example, were described later as having psychological issues.
More than a dozen wrongful death lawsuits are pending against gun dealers, some involving sales to customers who were not mentally stable, said Jonathan Lowy, a Brady Center lawyer who helped file the Missouri lawsuit.
“The store certainly could have refused to sell this gun and they should have,” Lowy said.
Weathers faces a charge of first-degree murder in the June 2012 killing of her father, Tex Delana, 60, according to court records. Weathers is accused of shooting Delana in the back of the head with the .45-caliber pistol two days after she bought it at Odessa Gun & Pawn in Odessa, Missouri.
Weathers has pleaded not guilty to the murder charge. Reuters could not reach her attorney on Thursday after normal business hours.
An employee who answered the phone at Odessa Gun & Pawn on Thursday said no one at the store had comment on the lawsuit, which names the store and three managers. The lawsuit was filed on Wednesday in the Circuit Court of Lafayette County in Lexington.
Weathers developed a high level of paranoia in 2006, was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2011, and hospitalized on several occasions for suicidal tendencies, the lawsuit said.
The Social Security Administration determined she was “severely mentally ill,” the lawsuit states.
“Delana emphatically and urgently requested that Odessa not sell Weathers a gun because of the great likelihood that Weathers would use the gun to shoot herself or others,” the lawsuit states.
According to the lawsuit, a gun shop employee told Janet Delana that the store had “little control” over whether to sell her a gun. But the lawsuit says Missouri law allows a gun shop employee to use “individual judgment” in refusing sale to some customers.
Editing by Lisa Shumaker