Filler Pistol Whipped

Glock Shoots Down Daniel Bennett.
By Jeff Smith

LET ME ESTABLISH at the outset that I love pizza and have no predisposition to dislike nor distrust a person purely on the grounds that said person is involved in the pizza industry.

Smith Let me admit, at this same juncture, that I tend toward a jaundiced view of the lawyering trade.

And let me further remind you all that I'm a bit of a fan of firearms, so it is not my reflexive bent to hold a gun owner in disrepute.

So all things being equal I would be inclined to think with favor on Daniel Bennett, pizza cook, gun owner, 48-year-old Baby Boomer (I am 50 and one of the original Boomers myownself) and, most recently, physically challenged individual. Bennett was working at his pizzeria one day in August of 1992, when a pair of masked gunmen stormed into his establishment and shot him in the chest. Bennett returned fire with a semi-automatic pistol he had recently purchased, but after firing the first round the pistol malfunctioned, and Bennett caught five more rounds in his head, neck and shoulder.

Believe me, as one who both personally and editorially opposes armed robbery and aggravated assault, and as one who has experienced life-threatening and painful injuries, I both sympathize and empathize with Daniel Bennett.

But we part company when it comes to the next major development in the saga of Dan and the Bad Guys.

In July of 1993 Bennett filed suit against the manufacturer of the pistol he had used to defend himself, the gun shop that sold him the gun, and the distributor that wholesaled the gun to the retailer. Somehow Bennett became confused and misidentified the Bad Guys. My opinion. I'd have I.D.'ed the villains as the two thugs in ski masks. The ones who pulled the triggers.

But Daniel Bennett and his lawyer, Harold Hyams--he of the "...if there's no recovery, there's no fee!" local TV commercials--sued to prove that the manufacturer, Glock, and the merchants made and sold a defective firearm, failed to warn Bennett it could malfunction, and that they therefore were responsible for his injuries. That, in essence, is what their complaint said; me, I tend to think that they were less interested in proving some putative flaw in firearms design than in making the big score and retiring on Glock, Jensen, Sport South, et al's money.

Again, my opinion.

To cut to the chase, after a five-week jury trial, in which world-renowned firearms designer, Gaston Glock, the inventor of the pistol Bennett bought and used, personally flew to Tucson to testify, the jury voted 6-2 to absolve the defendants of legal responsibility.

The case hinged on the issue of who bears responsibility for seeing that a firearm is operated in the proper manner. Dan and Harold argued that Glock, Jensen (Bob, and his gun store, with whom many of you are familiar) and Sport South, Inc. should have instructed Bennett in the ways in which the pistol might conceivably malfunction. The defendants' attorneys countered that it is the responsibility of the gun user to learn proper methods of use.

The jury agreed with the latter view, as do I.

I'll tell you what happened, because it happened to me the first time I fired a semi-automatic: Daniel Bennett "limp-wristed" his pistol, and because of that it failed to chamber the second round. Semi-autos like the Glock are recoil-operated. The "kick" of the fired cartridge sends the slide backward, ejecting the empty shell case; a recoil spring then sends the slide forward, and it picks up a new cartridge on the way, chambers it and is ready to fire again.

Unless the shooter holds the pistol in a lax grip--"limp-wristing." Because these simple, Newtonian actions and reactions depend on a firm foundation, a solid, manual hold. As does any sort of accurate aiming. These are things a gun-user needs to know, particularly when--as in the case of Daniel Bennett--the gun is bought and used for self-protection.

Is it the manufacturer's or seller's duty to warn the end-user of his potential mistakes, and to teach the user how to avoid them?

The last time you bought a car, did the owner's manual warn you not to run red lights? Did the dealer take you out in a 40-acre field and teach you how to stop without locking up the brakes or steer in the direction of a skid?

No. And no.

Yet most of us trouble ourselves to learn, train and practice the skills that allow us to get from home to work and whatnot in our motor vehicles. Common sense tells us that hunks of iron that weigh this much and move this fast could hurt somebody if operated inexpertly. We know, again through common sense, that the responsibility for learning these operating skills is ours.

Why then would anyone purchase a potentially lethal tool for self-defense and not take at least minimal measures to learn the safe and effective operation thereof? Why would anyone buy a gun--in the clear understanding that one is doing so for the purpose of protecting one's very life, and that this implement can both preserve life or end it--and still lay the responsibility for its effective use on a bunch of strangers?

I hope Daniel Bennett is able to take some constructive illumination from this and that he can resume a life of active and positive experience.

Honest. TW

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