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Gun owner testifies at civil trial

A middle school teacher's widow is suing the distributor of a cheap gun used in his shooting.

©Associated Press
October 30, 2002

WEST PALM BEACH -- Elmore McCray kept the small silver pistol for New Year's Eve celebrations, not for safety.

He testified Tuesday that he didn't think Nathaniel Brazill, who stole the weapon and shot teacher Barry Grunow, saw him take the pistol from a cookie tin in his dresser drawer each year and shoot it into the air in his back yard.

Brazill, who was 13 at the time, killed Grunow on the afternoon of May 26, 2000, after getting sent home for taking part in water balloon fights. He returned to talk to two girls in Grunow's class, but pointed the gun at the teacher when he wouldn't allow it. Brazill, who was convicted last year of second-degree murder, said the gun went off accidentally. He is serving a 28-year prison sentence.

McCray, a family friend who was like a grandfather to Brazill, didn't speak of the shooting when he took the stand on the sixth day of a civil trial. The case pits the teacher's widow, Pam Grunow, against the gun distributor, Valor Corp.

Pam Grunow is suing for $75-million, alleging that the 25-caliber Raven handgun should have been made safer with a lock and looks like a toy because of its size and cheap construction.

The case has drawn national attention because it is the first to address both the absence of a gun lock and the flaws associated with a small, inexpensive weapon known as a "crime gun" or "Saturday night special."

Attorneys for Valor tried to cast blame on McCray, asking him why he never told Brazill not to touch the gun, never locked it up or stored it away from the bullets.

"Did you have any reason you had to have the ammunition real handy to it?" Valor attorney Walter Latimer asked.

"No," McCray said. He testified that he thought he did everything he could do to keep a child from getting the gun.

Grunow also sued McCray for damages and settled for $300,000. She reached a $275,000 agreement with the Hypoluxo Pawn Shop where the gun was bought.

Her attorneys tried to paint the Raven handgun as a weapon with no purpose. Throughout the trial, they have pointed to statistics that show the gun is often used in crimes and commonly falls into the hands of juveniles.

The gun is not used for target practice, by law enforcement or the military or as a collector's item.

Asked why he kept the gun, McCray said it wasn't for self-protection.

"I don't know if it made me feel safer, but it made me feel better," he said.

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