Washington, D.C., September 30, 2020 – Brady Legal and co-counsel Sommers Schwartz, P.C. have filed a first-of-its-kind wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of a Michigan mother against Total Firearms – a Mason, Mich. gun store with a shooting range – and others following a March 2018 fatal shooting which left her 25-year-old daughter dead. Counsel believes this is the first case against a firearms facility with a gun range arising from a murder.
The estate of Rachel Renee Duncan, represented by her mother Gail Duncan of Charlotte, Mich., accuses the gun range, its owners Robert D. Carl and Christina Carl, and four employees of negligence and unlawful conduct in failing to take proper measures to ensure safety. Total Firearms rented two semi-automatic firearms (a 1911-style handgun and a Glock 17 Gen-4 handgun) to a dangerous man who was prohibited from possessing guns and allowed him to leave the facility with the Glock.
Duncan, the shooter’s ex-girlfriend, obtained a Personal Protective Order (PPO) against him earlier in March 2018 because he had displayed “violent, controlling, and/or threatening behavior” toward her. The PPO barred him from possessing a gun under Michigan law and federal law. Less than an hour after the defendants allowed him to leave with the gun he had rented from them, he entered Duncan’s workplace, a Jo-Ann Fabrics Store in Lansing, and killed her, shooting her multiple times before taking his own life. The complaint, filed in Ingham County Circuit Court, alleges that it was foreseeable the shooter would use the Glock to shoot and kill Duncan after he left the six-lane gun range with a handgun he was legally prohibited from possessing.
“This lawsuit seeks to hold the defendants accountable for their irresponsible and unlawful act of putting guns into the hands of a dangerous man prohibited from possessing them,” said attorney Erin Davis, Senior Counsel for Trial and Appellate Litigation at Brady. “Through a lack of supervision, they enabled him to stroll out the front door of the range armed and loaded. This resulted in a foreseeable and highly predictable murder. The defendants did not even know that the shooter had left their premises with the gun. They failed to contact law enforcement and denied police the chance to intervene and possibly spare two lives. We’re bringing this lawsuit on behalf of Rachel’s estate, represented by her mother Gail Duncan, as a matter of public safety and accountability.”
"Responsible gun ranges and dealers demonstrate that the system can work to keep guns out of the wrong hands when they follow federal and state laws and take reasonable care,” said Sommers Schwartz attorney and senior shareholder Matthew Turner. ” We will show that the shooter tried unsuccessfully to buy a Smith & Wesson handgun from a Michigan dealer a couple of weeks before the incident, but the dealer stopped the sale because a Brady background check showed that he was a prohibited possessor. The system worked once, but the shooter kept probing for a weak spot. He found one at the Total Firearms gun range. They rented him guns without screening him or requiring him to produce a Michigan pistol license and allowed him to leave the premises with the gun. We believe the evidence will reveal the defendants ignored behavioral red flags.”
“The defendants failed to exercise their duty of care – the highest degree of reasonable care – to protect members of the public,” added Mr. Turner. “Ms. Duncan died from the foreseeable harm that results when a gun range and its improperly trained employees allow a dangerous man unlawful access to loaded guns. They should not have put firearms into the hands of a man prohibited from possessing them and should not have permitted him to remove the gun rented from their facility without permission or supervision.”
The complaint alleges the defendants violated various federal and state safeguards, including:
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