Brandon Maxfield is a 26-year-old quadriplegic who helped take down part of California’s gun industry. When he was seven years old, he was
accidentally negligently shot through the neck with a .380-caliber semiautomatic pistol owned by his parents. It was kept in an unlocked drawer.
A 20-year-old family friend was watching Brandon and a 12-year-old relative. The 12-year-old found the gun, and the 20-year-old tried to unload it. The gun went off, hit Brandon, wounded him so severely that he was not expected to live.
But he did live. And per the L.A. Times, this is how he lives:
He can barely move an arm. He doesn’t walk. He requires a ventilator to breathe through the night. Brandon takes a pharmacy worth of medication, including antidepressants for the terrible nightmares he has about his parents dying.
That is one of many tragic results of negligence, not “accidents.” “Accidents” is nearly always a euphemism. Negligence is more accurate, so let’s call it what it is.
His mother is still haunted by guilt. Her very memorable, very poignant quote:
“I trusted that gun for our safety. It ruined our life.”
She was one of the “good guys” who owned a gun, a gun that nearly killed her own son, and will shorten what could have been a longer life (“My time is gonna be up before most people,” Brandon said. “And I’m OK with that.”). But even though Brandon’s life will be cut short, it is no less meaningful.
The gunmaker, Bryco Arms, used to be a successful Southern California manufacturer of cheap handguns known as Saturday Night Specials.
Ring of Fire guns — from Bryco, Jennings, Lorcin, Raven, Phoenix — flooded the market in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. Often called “junk guns,” they were the subject of many lawsuits, but probably none with as much impact as the one filed by Brandon and his Bay Area attorney Richard Ruggieri.
Back in 2003, Ruggieri alleged that Bryco’s owner had covered up a jamming problem in the type of gun that shot Brandon. “When the safety was on and the slide was pulled back to check for a bullet, the gun would jam.”
Rather than spend a nickel per gun to fix the flaw, Bryco rewrote the gun’s instructions, telling users to remove the safety before pulling back the slide. As Ruggieri likes to say, that’s like removing your seat belt just before a crash.
Bryco ended up closing down and its owner left the state. Brandon was awarded millions, and his parents, the owners of the shop that sold the gun, and the 20-year-old who shot him were faulted along with Jennings, but to a lesser degree.
Meanwhile, Jennings did not live happily ever after in the Sunshine State. He lost his federal firearms license after breaking his wife’s jaw. In January, he pleaded guilty in federal court to possessing and distributing child pornography and is facing up to 30 years in prison.
There you go. That is who sold firearms to the “good guys”… A bad guy. A really, really bad guy.