Mata v. Pioneer Pawn
Victory in Reforming Texas Gun Dealer Following Murder of Rudy Mata
A Texas gun dealer agreed to implement significant business reforms after it sold a gun to a dangerous purchaser who used the firearm to kill his father-in-law.
In September 2012, Pioneer Pawn, in Arlington, TX, provided David Merrill with a Glock handgun. Merrill was addicted to illegal drugs a history of abuse, having once told a Pioneer Pawn employee that he intended to commit a murder. Indeed, hours later on on September 25, 2012, Merrill used the Glock to shoot and kill acclaimed Arlington musician Rudy Mata.
Mata was an acclaimed local rockabilly star. He was a beloved husband, father, and grandfather. He was killed two weeks prior to his 26th wedding anniversary with his wife, Sandra.
With the help of the Brady legal team, the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, and the firm Edwards Law, Sandra brought suit against Pioneer Pawn and its owners. The case was settled in March 2018. In cooperation with Brady, Pioneer Pawn agreed to implement policies to increase awareness on the part of its employees and to enhance its existing gun safety policies. Brady succeeded in pushing Pioneer Pawn to adopt to a variety of practice reforms, including:
- Written store policies setting forth when employees may or must deny a firearm sale or pawn redemption;
- Requirement that employees affirmatively assess whether customers are under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or are mentally unstable;
- Requirement that employees employees to report remarks, actions, or other indicators that a customer may be a prohibited purchaser even if cleared by a background check;
- Requirement that employees employees to promptly report certain information to management and law enforcement; now requires employees to review trace requests from the ATF;
- Mandatory training once a year for employees who handle firearms.
Because of Brady’s tireless advocacy on behalf of Sandra and Rudy Mata, Pioneer Pawn will do more to ensure that its firearms stay out of the hands of dangerous people.
The Brady Center filed suit on behalf of Rudy’s widow, Sandra Mata, in a Texas district court in September 2015. The lawsuit alleges that Pioneer Pawn and its employees unlawfully supplied a firearm to David Merrill despite knowing or having reasonable cause to know that Merrill intended to commit a crime, and posed a substantially high risk of causing violent harm. Despite his threatening comments and dangerous behavior, the suit alleges that the dealer and its employees negligently supplied him with the gun and did not call the police or undertake further investigations into Merrill’s intent to purchase a gun, or his mental state. The case is currently in discovery. The Brady Center represents Sandra in this case, along with a team from the firm of Paul Weiss in New York, led by Partner Christopher Boehning.