Category: Uncategorized

Your Most FAQ Answered on Gun Defects

According to a recent New York Times article, more than 40,000 Americans died from firearm injuries last year. Deaths caused by the unintentional discharge of a firearm landed in the 16th spot for unintentional deaths in the United States.

Unfortunately, the gun industry sells the one consumer product not regulated by the federal government. Our team at Morris Haynes is determined to hold those manufacturers accountable so that law abiding Americans don’t suffer the catastrophic consequences of a defective firearm going off without the trigger being pulled.

Do You Have a Legal Case?

When an unintentional discharge occurs, one of the first things you want to know is if you have a legal case. Therefore, when you get started with our team of knowledgeable and experienced attorneys at Morris Haynes, we ask you a number of questions in order to understand more about your case, including:

  • What happened?
  • What type of gun was involved?
  • Did you file a police/incident report?
  • Did you still have possession of the firearm, ammunition, or spent shell casing? If not, who has possession?
  • Where did you buy the firearm?
  • What came with the gun at time of purchase? (i.e. manual, warranty, etc.)
  • Did you research the firearm prior to purchase?
  • Did you seek or do you need to seek medical treatment?

After review of your answers to these questions, our team can discuss whether you have enough information to support a viable legal claim against the gun industry and the company who sold you the defective gun.

At Morris Haynes, we specialize in these types of cases and would love the opportunity to consult with you if you think your firearm might have a defect, even if it’s not already on our list of guns with known defects. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us today for a free consultation.


Get the 411 on the Taurus Pistols

For more than 70 years, Forjas Taurus (“Taurus Forge”) has been known as one of the largest small arms manufacturers world-wide.

Recently, Taurus has been under fire for their repair or replacement program. The manufacturer  landed in court with several class-action lawsuits filed against their defective Taurus pistols.

Taurus Products

Thanks to these defects Taurus has spent millions in lawsuits, court and attorney fees, and more. However, people and organizations, including law enforcement, are still choosing their products with known defects.  

The following are nine pistols that the manufacturer has agreed to repair or replace as a result of settling the Carter v. Taurus class action lawsuit. Currently there is no repair.

  • Taurus PT 111 Millennium
  • Taurus PT-132 Millennium
  • Taurus PT-138-Millennium
  • Taurus PT-140 Millennium
  • Taurus PT-145 Millennium
  • Taurus PT-745 Millennium
  • Taurus PT-609
  • Taurus PT-640
  • Taurus PT-24/7

Even with a settled class-action that favored against Taurus, the company continues to claim that there is nothing wrong with the defective guns. Yet, upon settling, established their repair or replacement program. This denial is likely why gun owners are still choosing Taurus pistols when shopping for their next gun.

Protect Your Right. Protect Thyself!

Once a firearm has been manufactured it is up to the manufacturer to ensure that the gun is safe and ready to sale. There are no laws or test in place by the federal government that a gun must pass. This is a problem.

Accidental discharges put gun owners, their loved ones, and innocent bystanders in danger of harm, life threatening injuries, or even death. A gun should never fire on its own but that is exactly what is happening with these Taurus pistols.

If you are a gun owner, it is important to educate yourself on the products you purchase. Be sure there are no repairs and/or defects associated with the gun of your choosing. You have the right to bear arms but you also have the right safety.

Stay protected and in the know always!

At Morris Haynes, we specialize in these types of cases and would love the opportunity to consult with you if you think your firearm might have a defect, even if it’s not already on our list of guns with known defects. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us today for a free consultation.


When Gun Manufacturers Don’t Speak Up

No matter the industry the goal in business is, for the most part, to land the big deal. For gun manufacturer Sig Sauer, the big deal was won in 2016 when the company secured a massive contract with the United States Army for the P320.

Problems arose when the Sig Sauer pistol was later found to go off by itself if impacted at a certain angle. However, the gun manufacturer decided to move forward with the deal despite this finding. Raising the question – what is more important? Money or safety?

A Popular Choice But Not a Safe Choice?

If the United States Army chooses to use a certain pistol, other entities such as law enforcement, are sure to follow suit. Meaning, this mega deal ultimately provided both the military and police officers with defective guns.

As a result, many accidents with the Sig Sauer P320 have occured. In fact, over the last few years, three police officers suffered a gunshot injury from involuntary firing and a Virginia sheriff’s deputy shattered her femur while simply removing her gun from her holster.

Too Little, Too Late?

These incidents did cause the gun manufacturer to announce a voluntary upgrade in August 2017. However,  it was still on a “voluntary” basis as there is no law saying a gun manufacturer has to fix defects with their products.

That is where the issue remains. Firearms, like the Sig Sauer pistol, are still being purchased with known injury causing defects because gun manufacturers do not want to miss out on the “big deal.”

While Americans should and do have the right to bear arms, the arms should be safe and secure. They shouldn’t be firing without the trigger being pulled. Thousands of injuries and deaths are happening as a result of these types of defects and gun manufacturers should be held responsible!

At Morris Haynes, we specialize in these types of cases and would love the opportunity to consult with you if you think your firearm might have a defect, even if it’s not already on our list of guns with known defects. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us today for a free consultation.


What Can Be Done About Gun Defects?

You hear about recalls all the time—whether online, on  television, or from a friend. A car seat is recalled for failing a safety test. Romaine lettuce  is recalled for containing E. coli bacteria. However, when a gun is defective, silence.

Despite the fact that the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) acknowledges that more than 40% of all new guns contain some type of defect. So why do we not hear about gun defects until an injury or death occurs? What can we do to make a change when it comes to gun defect laws in the United States?

The argument here is not about the right to bear arms. It is for law-abiding gun owners to be able to exercise this right without the fear of our guns going off on their own.

Gun Defects Need Attention

Did you know that the gun industry is the only consumer product industry in America that isn’t regulated by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission? Everything else, from infant formula, to food additives, to microwave ovens and toasters are monitored to ensure they are safe for consumers and their families but guns are not.  

Why? Moreover, how is it that a product that can be lethal is not subject to the same oversight? When you consider the potentially life-changing outcomes of purchasing a defective firearm, the answer should be clear.

The Gun Industry Needs to Step Up

Since there is no federal agency ensuring that firearms are safety tested, gun manufacturers must act on their own to be sure their products are safe for customer to use. They are advised to follow testing protocols, like those suggested by the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers Institute, Inc. and the American National Standards Institute.

Through the application of better safety testing and engineering practices, the number of injuries and deaths caused by defective firearms can be greatly reduced. However, gun manufacturers must step up and do the right thing when a defect is noticed or reported. It is their sole responsibility to issue a recall and while some companies have in the past, many have not.

It is also worth noting that even in the best of circumstances the recall effort seems to be two steps behind. Most are not well-publicized or done in a timely manner.

From 2005 to 2010, one study recognized that approximately 3,800 Americans died due to unintentional shooting. If Congress and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission won’t step in, it’s time for the gun industry to pick-up the slack before another family is torn apart.

At Morris Haynes, we specialize in  defective firearm litigation and representing lawful gun owners. If you think your gun might have a defect, our attorneys at Morris Haynes  are ready and willing to help you. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us today for a free consultation.


When a Firearm Goes Defective

Imagine. You are at a family member’s home, relaxing. Your wife and your 11-year-old son are sitting on the couch.You take your Taurus PT 609 firearm and try to load the magazine into the pistol. However, the magazine doesn’t properly seat.

You get off the couch and walk over to the ceiling fan light to figure out what is wrong. Your wife and son remain seated on the couch watching television. For slight reinforcement,  you “bump” the magazine with the palm of your hand. Bang! The firearm goes off. You never even pulled the trigger.

Now you’re faced with the unimaginable reality that the 9mm round of the PT-609 hit both your son and wife. For Donald Dewayne Simms and his family, this event was very real, and it ended with the loss of his son, Donald Dewayne Simms, Jr.

A Defective Gun, A Life Lost

While the answers to why the Taurus PT-609 firearm went off without the trigger being pulled may never be found, one thing is certain. It was not the first time that this type of gun fired without the trigger being pulled.

In fact, weeks after the passing of his son, Dewayne discovered that for more than 18 months, a class action lawsuit had been pending in Miami, Florida. However Forjas, Taurus Holdings, and Taurus International refused to remove striker-fired handguns, which included the PT-609 that killed his son, from the market.

In other words, Taurus was aware of the potential risk that their product held. Still they failed to appropriately warn consumers, which could have Donald Simms Jr.’s life.

Gun Manufacturer’s Need to Step Up

U.S. citizens have the right to their Second Amendment and the right to bear arms but, firearm companies need to take action to keep their customers. This involves making sure to get information out to the public when a firearm they sell could have a potential (and deadly) defect.

When the safety is on, a gun should never go off. Period.

At Morris Haynes, we specialize in these types of cases and would love the opportunity to consult with you if you think your firearm might have a defect, even if it’s not already on our list of guns with known defects. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us today for a free consultation.


Nerf guns are inspected more thoroughly than firearms

Gun safety Lawyer

You teach your child how to properly handle a gun. He grips a gun and places his finger on the trigger. You rest assured knowing that the gun is safe and as long as he or she handles it properly.  But, what you don’t realize is that his toy nerf gun has been more thoroughly inspected for safety than the real gun he holds in his hands. The reality is if it’s a real gun, there is no inspection, no government guidelines, no certification to reassure you that the gun your child has been trained to use is safe.

Toy guns can be recalled if they misfire or if there is a complaint, but real guns are not held to the same standard. Guns may be recalled, but it is completely according to the discretion of the manufacturer. They are not required to do so. But it can take only one complaint for the Consumer Product Safety Commission to recall a toy gun.

The gun industry is the only consumer product that isn’t regulated by the federal government. It’s the only industry that is exempt from all federal safety and health regulations. As a result, there is no federal agency overseeing gun manufacturers and holding manufacturers accountable for the products that they produce. There is no government agency to recall defective guns and ammunition.

So gun owners can only rely on the manufacturers themselves to take responsibility of their own products, to issue recalls and basically police themselves. As a result, many defective guns are not recalled, products are not always properly tested by manufacturers and consumers are not informed properly about faulty guns resulting in even more injuries and deaths from misfirings.

“Cars have crash tests done,” commented Todd Wheeles, attorney with Morris, Haynes, Knowles & Nelson. “But gun owners are left to their own devices.”

There are toy regulations, automobile regulations, virtually every consumer product, except guns, are regulated.  Despite the fact that thousands of defective weapons are in the marketplace, there are no government requirements for guns. If the gun misfires or if it is dropped causing it to misfire, there are no repercussions. No one takes responsibility.

Millions of gun owners are unknowingly in possession of a product that contains some type of defect. Guns like any product can be priced to sell and to meet that price, corners can be cut and quality can suffer. Some manufacturers flood the market with cheaply made guns that have not been inspected.

So what can consumers do? Wheeles suggests that consumers do their research.

“There’s a lot of information online,” he said. “Find out which manufacturers test their products. The most important thing is to be familiar with firearms. Go to a range. First time gun owners should get training. Don’t buy a gun that you are afraid of and put it in the drawer. You need proper training, practice loading and unloading. Practice to be proficient. Once you’ve had the training, do the research. There are lots of gun magazines with information.”

Without Federal gun regulations it is up to the gun owner to take responsibility for their gun safety and the safety of their family. And gun safety is more than cleaning, handling and storing your weapons properly. It also means doing your homework, researching which manufacturers have testing for their weapons.

Wheeles also suggested checking out what guns the military use or the police department, because these are products that have been tested and are of high quality. Gun owners must take responsibility to do the work themselves to protect their family and themselves.

If you do have a defective firearm or have sustained an injury from a defective firearm, Morris Haynes may be able to help you.

At Morris Haynes, we specialize in these types of cases and would love the opportunity to consult with you if you think your firearm might have a defect, even if it’s not already on our list of guns with known defects.  Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us today for a free consultation.  

Attorney who prosecutes gun companies is a gun owner himself

Gun Defect Attorney

You may think that an attorney that is passionate about protecting consumers from gun misfirings isn’t a gun lover, but nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to Todd Wheeles, a partner at Morris, Haynes, Knowles & Nelson. Wheeles, who began his career as a State Trooper in 1993, has a healthy respect for firearms, as do most gun owners.

As Wheeles says, “I’m not anti-gun, I’m anti-bad gun.”

Wheeles grew up like most boys in Alabama hunting and fishing. He learned about guns from his family. “I had good teachers,” he said.

As a boy, he gained a healthy respect for guns and from the time he was the fourth grade, he enjoyed tromping through the woods with his trusty 20 gauge shotgun.

He attended college at Auburn University. While still in college, he went to work at the Lee County Sheriff’s Department. He went on to become a State Trooper, where he continued to be trained in the use of firearms, becoming proficient in gun safety practices.

He continued his education, earning his Master’s Degree from Jacksonville State University. While still a State Trooper, he made the decision to become an attorney, citing that the profession offered more opportunity and avenues in which to use his degree. He earned his Juris Doctorate from the Birmingham School of Law in 2001.

His first firearms case was referred to him and he soon learned what it was like to work on a case in which he could help someone who was the victim of an accident. Now, Wheeles is committed to educating gun owners about facts they may not be aware of that could save their lives or the life of a loved one. Most gun owners are under the impression that when a gun misfires it is the result of owner error, but that isn’t always the case. What they don’t realize is that there may be a defect in the gun itself. This is what Wheeles wants gun owners to be aware of, so they can prevent a tragedy from occurring.

Consumers tend to assume that if a gun is on the market, it is safe to use, but that isn’t always the case. Some manufacturers take the responsibility to test their guns and some don’t.

It’s important that gun owners and consumers understand that the firearm itself may be defective and as a result, its manufacturer can be held responsible by law. Anytime a firearm discharges without its trigger being pulled, it is defective. There are numerous incidents of firearms discharging when dropped, shaken or jostled in some way, resulting in injury or death.

So no matter how responsible you may be as a gun owner, your firearm could cause your death or someone else as the result of an unintended discharge. Check out this link to see if you own one of these models, . If you do own one of these firearms, you may be entitled to compensation.

Wheeles and his colleagues at Morris Haynes work with gun owners and their families to hold gun manufacturers accountable. They may be able to help you.

At Morris Haynes, we specialize in these types of cases and would love the opportunity to consult with you if you think your firearm might have a defect, even if it’s not already on our list of guns with known defects.  Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us today for a free consultation.  

You’re a gun owner: I’ll bet you think these things too (reasons why accidental gun discharges happen)

gun accidentally discharging

gun accidentally discharging

You’re a responsible gun owner.  You own several different types of firearms yourself.  You know how to fire them properly; you know how to care for them properly.  

So when you read or hear about an “accidental discharge” of a weapon, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “wellllllll…, that person just didn’t know how to handle their guns.  They needed more education. They weren’t being careful enough.”  

And we used to think that too.  Until we started representing people who have had accidental discharges.  And once we learned what we now know about them, we’ve started thinking about things a little differently ourselves.

For example, did you know that there are over 25 types of guns made by manufacturers such as Remington, Ruger, and Taurus that have known defects that can cause these guns to inadvertently or unintentionally fire without the trigger being pulled?  You can see the list of the models of the firearms on our website.  These are weapons that, even when they are handled with care and according to manufacturer’s instructions, can fire without the trigger being pulled.

And the shame is, the type of gun owner who is the MOST familiar with weapons, who is the MOST likely to carry weapons on their person or on their property every day, are the very people that are most at risk.  Why? Because the more you handle a firearm, the odds go up that you will drop it. For example, can you think of how many times you’ve dropped your own cell phone in the past month? Things that are handled frequently have an increased likelihood to be dropped.  And almost all experts agree that firearms are NOT MEANT to fire just because they are dropped.

The truth is, a firearm is deemed defective any time it fires without the trigger being pulled.  For instance, if a gun explodes, or fires when the slide is racked, or fires when it is dropped, or fires when shaken or jostled, IT IS DEFECTIVE.

So keep this in mind the next time you hear a story about someone “accidentally” discharging a firearm, because it just might be a defective firearm, NOT a lack of care or education on the part of the individual.

And if for some reason this has ever happened to you, and it caused catastrophic harm to you or someone else, you more than likely have a case against the gun manufacturer.  At Morris Haynes, we specialize in these types of cases and would love the opportunity to consult with you if you think your firearm might have a defect, even if it’s not already on our list of guns with known defects.  Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us today for a free consultation.  

U.S. Could Order Defective-Gun Recalls Under Lawmaker’s Bill

A congresswoman from Michigan has introduced legislation to allow the Federal Consumer Product Safety Commission to issue safety warnings and recalls of guns that are found to have safety defects. The press release mentions a Taurus case our firm is litigating that happened in Georgia.

Read More

How Defective Guns Became the Only Product That Can’t Be Recalled

Taurus sold almost a million handguns that can potentially fire without anyone pulling the trigger. The government won’t fix the problem. The NRA is silent. By Michael Smith and Polly Mosendz

Thomas “Bud” Brown makes his way out the back door and stops a few steps to the right, raising a trembling arm, pointing at something. It’s where he found his boy slumped against the cold back wall of the house around 7:15 a.m. on the last day of 2016, bleeding out.

Brown is telling the story now, about how he was sitting in his chair in the living room when he heard the shot. His son Jarred, 28, had just picked up Bud’s Taurus PT-145 Millennium Pro pistol and headed out to do some shooting near the house in Griffin, Ga., with his best friend, Tyler Haney. Bud figured Jarred had fired at something for the fun of it, like he did sometimes. “I was thinking I’d better go out there and tell him to be careful or something,” Bud, 54, says, his voice trailing off. But what he’d heard was the pistol going off without anyone pulling the trigger, sending a .45-caliber slug through Jarred’s femoral artery. “Oh shit, my leg, my leg,” Jarred yelled, loud enough for his father to hear. Haney, 26, rushed into the house in a panic, pleading for help. When Bud got out there, the pistol was still in the holster, tucked into Jarred’s waistband.

The rest is a blur for Bud. His wife, Sonie, recalls running out of the house in her nightgown. She’d grown close to Jarred since he moved into their home a year or so earlier, taking him to the stables to feed her two horses, cooking for him, and just talking with him. And now Jarred was on the ground, his father kneeling over him, applying pressure to the wound. Sonie wrapped Jarred’s belt around his leg as a tourniquet. It was hard to tell how bad the bleeding was because Jarred was wearing thick waterproof hunting pants. Sonie worked on Jarred, alternating between chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth, using the training she’d gotten during a career as a Georgia state parole and probation officer. Haney paced back and forth until Sonie ordered him to call 911. “Jarred was trying to say something, but then the words wouldn’t come out, and he stared,” Sonie says. By the time paramedics got there, she knew her stepson was gone. “I wasn’t going to say anything because Bud was so torn up, but I knew,” she recalls today. “I can still taste the cigarettes on his breath.”

A collage of pictures of Thomas “Bud” Brown’s late son, Jarred, hangs on a wall in Brown’s home in Griffin, Ga., on Jan. 25, 2018. PHOTOGRAPHER: BRYAN THOMAS FOR BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK 


In the days after his son’s death, Brown couldn’t get his head around how that Taurus pistol went off. He’d spent his career in law enforcement, first as a Spalding County Sheriff’s Department deputy, then as a cop in Jackson, a little town nearby, and finally with a Drug Enforcement Administration task force in Macon. (He retired 10 years ago before having surgery to remove a softball-size cancerous tumor from his esophagus.) For years, Brown was a police shooting instructor. He started teaching Jarred how to shoot with a .22 rifle when he was 7 and drilled safety into his head on hunting trips and at the shooting range.

Sonie also knows guns, down to the .38 revolver she’s licensed to use and carry in her purse for work as a probation officer. Sonie and Bud have 12 firearms in their small brick home—seven rifles and five handguns—and Bud is a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association. The Browns refused to accept that Jarred had accidentally shot himself. “Jarred knew his way around guns and safety better than I did,” Bud says. “He never would have done anything that would have made that gun go off.”

Those doubts were gnawing at Haney, too. He watched Jarred come out of the house with the Taurus safely in a holster and swears his best friend didn’t touch the pistol when it fired. “I knew there was something wrong with that gun,” Haney says. “So I Googled it.” He found a curious announcement on Taurus’s website: The company was offering to fix or replace nine of its handguns. The pistol that killed his friend was on the list.

Haney kept Googling. He learned that the repair-or-replace offer was the result of the 2016 settlement of a class-action lawsuit brought by Chris Carter, a deputy in the Scott County, Iowa, sheriff’s department, against Brazilian gunmaker Forjas Taurus SA and two of its Florida-based units. In July 2013, Carter’s suit claimed, he was running down a suspected drug dealer when his Taurus PT-140 Millennium Pro pistol fell out of the holster at his hip, hit the ground, and fired, sending a slug into a nearby car. The suit further asserted that because of defects of design and manufacturing, nine different models of Taurus handguns can fire unintentionally when bumped or dropped or when the safety is on and the trigger is pulled. Taurus agreed to repair or buy back, for as much as $200, any of those models owned by people in the U.S. and its territories—an estimated 955,796 guns, according to the settlement. (The cut-off date for the offer was Feb. 6.) The company denied any negligence, wrongdoing, or defects in its firearms and also denied that its offer to fix its guns was a recall.

Haney sat Jarred’s dad and stepmother down in their living room to show them what he’d found. Sonie took down the name and number of Todd Wheeles, a state trooper turned lawyer in Birmingham, Ala., who’s handled 16 lawsuits against Taurus, including the class action in Iowa.

Two days later, Wheeles and another Birmingham lawyer, David Selby, were sitting at the Browns’ kitchen table. Wheeles showed them how the Taurus gun that killed Jarred would fire, even with the safety on. “In about 10 seconds he showed us three different ways that gun could go off on its own,” Sonie says.

Bud couldn’t believe what he was seeing. He’d never heard of any problem with Taurus guns. He never saw a notice at the pawnshop where he paid $250 for the gun that killed Jarred or at Walmart when he bought his ammunition. Before the kitchen table meeting was over, the Browns had hired Wheeles and Selby to sue Taurus for negligence and manufacturing defects. “I couldn’t believe that no one had warned us that those guns were bad,” Bud says. “Why didn’t Taurus warn us? Why did the government let them sell those guns?”

The simple answer is that no government entity has the power to police defective firearms or ammunition in America—or even force gunmakers to warn consumers. The Consumer Product Safety Commission can order the recall and repair of thousands of things, from toasters to teddy bears. If a defective car needs fixing, the U.S. Department of Transportation can make it happen. The Food and Drug Administration deals with food, drugs, and cosmetics. Only one product is beyond the government’s reach when it comes to defects and safety: firearms. Not even the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives can get defective guns off the market. If a gunmaker chooses to ignore a safety concern, there’s no one to stop it.

To understand how firearms makers escaped government oversight of the safety of their pistols, revolvers, and rifles, you need to go back to 1972, when Congress created the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Four years earlier, President Lyndon B. Johnson had signed the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act, which regulated several aspects of firearm sales, and advocates of gun control hoped to give this new agency oversight of defective weapons. Representative John Dingell, a Democrat from Michigan and a hunter with an A-plus rating from the ascendant NRA, blocked them. In 1975 he did it again, when a colleague introduced a bill making a second run at giving the CPSC firearms authority. “We put in there an express prohibition against them getting their nose into the business of regulating firearms and ammunition,” Dingell said in debate in Congress. That second bill was crushed, 339-80, and the issue has never been seriously considered again.

Sonie Brown and her husband, Bud Brown, with a picture of Jarred. On the morning of New Year’s Eve 2016, Jarred picked up his father’s Taurus handgun to shoot target practice behind their house when the gun went off while holstered.

For Brown, none of that explains why he hadn’t heard that Taurus had sold bad guns. It’s one thing if the government didn’t do anything, but he reads every issue of American Rifleman, the NRA’s official magazine, and he never saw a warning about Taurus guns. “Why didn’t the NRA warn us? I guess there’s too much money and politics going into the NRA, so they had reason not to tell us,” he says.

The NRA lists gun safety as among its concerns, and in recent years, American Rifleman has covered voluntary safety recalls from Colt’s ManufacturingFN America, and SIG Sauer. But articles on Taurus’s class-action settlement or any of the lawsuits could not be found by search on the magazine’s website. Shooting Illustrated, another NRA publication, ran a three-paragraph story on the class-action settlement.

Taurus and the NRA have had a mutually beneficial relationship for years. A lot of that was the work of Robert Morrison, president of Miami Lakes-based Taurus International Manufacturing Inc., until 2011. Morrison is a close friend of Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s executive vice president. Taurus has received at least eight NRA awards and has been mentioned in dozens of articles in American Rifleman.

Morrison started as an independent Taurus salesman in 1994 before moving up through the ranks to run U.S. operations in 2004. He aggressively used the NRA to sell guns, introducing a program, still in effect, whereby anyone who buys a Taurus weapon is given a free one-year membership in the NRA. The strategy appears to have worked: In 2016, American Rifleman profiled an Alabama pawnshop that sold 1,000 Taurus firearms in a month with the promotion. The standard price for an NRA membership is currently $40.

Many Taurus models are considered starter guns. Bass Pro Shops, one of the largest firearms sellers in the country, sells nine Taurus-made models for under $400, including the $179.99 Heritage Rough Rider revolver. The cheapest Glock—a brand that works a different part of the handgun market—is $469.99.

The low end sees plenty of activity. Last year, six Taurus guns made category-based top-10-selling lists published by Gun Genius, a website owned by LLC, the country’s largest online auction platform for firearms. That included the Taurus Model 85, the No. 1-selling revolver in America, which goes for as little as $219 on (The NRA didn’t respond to repeated requests for comment for this article. Morrison, reached at his Florida home by phone, didn’t respond to requests for comment.)

When Wheeles and Selby file suit against Taurus, their language appears to be crafted explicitly to head off suspicions the suits are veiled attacks on the right to bear arms. The suit over Jarred Brown’s death, filed last May in Florida’s 11th Circuit Court in Miami, states that Bud Brown “does not wish or intend to disparage his or anyone’s Second Amendment right to bear arms.” Instead, the suit is about holding Taurus “to account for importing, marketing, and distributing a pistol that is defective and unreasonably dangerous.” Such language was critical, according to Wheeles. “As an avid hunter and gun owner, I don’t want someone to pick up a case and say, ‘They just want to take away our guns,’ ” he says. “We want to say these guns are defective, and they should not be allowed to sell defective firearms in America. That’s what this is about.” Taurus has filed a motion to dismiss the case. The company, in a written statement to Bloomberg, said none of its guns are defective.

On a November morning, Wheeles puts a Taurus pistol on the conference room table in his office in Birmingham. He confirms that it’s unloaded and working properly and then makes sure the safety is engaged. “OK, the safety is on, so it shouldn’t fire,” he says, passing the gun to a Bloomberg reporter. “Now, pull the trigger.” With a click, the unloaded pistol fires. “That’s not supposed to happen,” Wheeles says, carefully putting away the gun.

The lawsuit over Brown’s death, like the class-action suit that Taurus agreed to settle and many of the other suits brought against the company, alleges flaws in the systems designed to prevent misfires. They include a trigger safety, which is intended to prevent the rearward movement of the trigger; a manual safety lever, which when switched up and on should block the firing mechanism; and a firing pin block, which is meant to keep the firing pin from moving forward and striking the round’s primer unless the trigger is pulled all the way back.

Taurus executives have been unyielding as they go up against Wheeles, starting with the first suit he brought against the company, in January 2007. The suit in that case described how Adam Maroney was loading a doghouse onto his Ford F-150 pickup at home in Boaz, Ala., in February 2005. His Taurus PT-111 pistol, in a detachable holster and with the safety engaged, slipped out of his left back pocket and fell to the concrete floor of the garage. The 9-millimeter slug tore through his pancreas, spleen, diaphragm, and lungs, leaving him severely injured. When police arrived, they found the pistol with the safety on. Taurus opted not to settle the suit, which accused the company of negligence and failure to warn customers of defects in its pistol, preferring to try its luck before a jury.

In a deposition, Morrison was defiant. Asked if Taurus Holdings Inc., the holding company for all Taurus operations in the U.S., was affiliated with Forjas Taurus in Brazil, he said he didn’t know. When Wheeles asked who owned Taurus Holdings—the parent of his employer for more than a decade—Morrison said he didn’t know. Asked whether Taurus tests the firearms it imports and distributes in the U.S., Morrison said he didn’t believe so, except for recent testing required in California. During a particularly tense line of questioning, Wheeles became frustrated and, according to the deposition, chuckled. “I’m not trying to insult you,” Wheeles said. “The answers that you are giving me are comical because you are being so evasive.” Morrison ended up admitting that there was a dangerous issue with his pistols: “My answer to the question—if you are referring to all PT-111s—it is: I believe that they can go off if dropped,” he said. In August 2009, a jury awarded Maroney $1.25 million in damages, plus reimbursement of medical costs. Taurus didn’t appeal the verdict.

Forjas Taurus declined requests for interviews for this story. In its statement to Bloomberg, the company said allegations that its guns are defective are baseless. “The settlement in the Carter case clearly shows that no defects were proven,” the company says. “Taurus’s commitments in that settlement are aimed at guaranteeing customers’ tranquility.” Far fewer customers have sent in their guns for repair or a cash payout than are covered by the settlement, the company said. Taurus Holdings also declined to comment.

A Taurus PT-111 Millennium G2, an updated version of one of the guns named in a 2016 class-action settlement. PHOTOGRAPHER: JOANNA MCCLURE FOR BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK

To understand the pervasiveness of Taurus’s safety issues, it helps to talk to Lívia Nascimento Tinôco, a Brazilian federal prosecutor in Aracaju, the capital of Sergipe state on the Atlantic coast. She’ll tell you that Taurus has a long history of selling guns that blow up or misfire, leaving a trail of injured, dead, or traumatized people. Almost all the victims in Brazil are law enforcement officers, who have no choice but to carry Taurus guns.

Tinôco knew little about Taurus until July 2016, when Cristian Sobral, commander of the special operations units for the state Civil Police, walked into her office to talk about the Taurus guns his men were forced to carry. Some jammed, had their safeties fail, or simply went off on their own, he said. He showed her reports of multiple incidents, and then he put on some videos. They showed Taurus pistols being dropped from about waist height and firing when they hit the ground. “I couldn’t believe it,” Tinôco says.

On July 15, 2016, she opened a formal investigation. Quickly, her investigators found reports of widespread defects in police service weapons—both pistols and long rifles, including the SMT-40 submachine gun—across Brazil. A 2014 report by the Justice and Public Safety Ministry’s National Public Safety Department revealed high rates of defects in Taurus guns purchased by police departments in 19 of Brazil’s 26 states; a 2010 test of 350 Taurus PT-840 police pistols showed 100 were defective.

In August, Brazil’s lower house of congress held hearings on the alleged defects of Taurus guns. Police officers gave dramatic testimony about being injured when their service weapons misfired or about living with the death or injury of bystanders who were hit. A Taurus lawyer testified that the company was fighting 35 lawsuits in Brazil alleging misfires.

The army, which regulates firearms in Brazil, requires law enforcement to buy guns made in Brazil. In 2008, Taurus bought its largest domestic rival, Rossi, and it now has effective control of 90 percent of gun manufacturing in Brazil, Tinôco says. This domestic monopoly allows Taurus to charge exorbitant prices, Tinôco’s investigation concluded: The PT-840, one of the most common pistols carried by Brazilian police officers, costs law enforcement agencies about $1,500 in Taurus’s home country. It sells for a fifth of that in the U.S.

In July 2017, Tinôco filed a 174-page lawsuit in federal court in Aracaju asking a judge to order Taurus to stop making 10 models of handguns and submachine guns and recall all of them in circulation in Brazil, alleging the guns were defective. The judge ordered Taurus to come up with a plan to recall the 10 models within 90 days but stopped short of banning production. Taurus appealed in another court, arguing that prosecutors hadn’t proved its guns are defective, and won an injunction that blocked the recall. Tinôco has appealed that November ruling, but sorting out the case could take years, she says.

A few years ago, police officers whose Taurus guns had misfired organized Victims of Taurus, a sort of advocacy and emotional support network for cops. In March 2015, they set up a group chat on the WhatsApp messaging system for its members. When a Bloomberg reporter was invited to join in mid-November, members posted a flurry of emotional testimonials: “Accidental discharge,” the first post by a police officer read; “Killing a passenger on a motorcycle”; “I had an accident with my CTT .40”; “Mine fired by itself, holstered and with the safety on”; “Shot in my leg when I saluted”; “Shot in index finger. … serious injury with permanent damage.”

In 2013, Taurus stopped selling the nine gun models alleged to be defective in the U.S.: the PT-111 Millennium, PT-132 Millennium, PT-138 Millennium, PT-140 Millennium, PT-145 Millennium, PT-745 Millennium, PT-24/7, PT-609, and PT-640.

There are allegations, however, of a new kind of defect in at least one popular revolver that Taurus still sells in America. This time, the gun didn’t misfire; it blew apart, according to a lawsuit filed in September in U.S. District Court in Raleigh, N.C.

On March 9, 2016, Michael Coleman, a veteran Durham County Sheriff’s officer, walked into the gun range at Eagle 1 Law Enforcement Supply in Raleigh. He carried the Rossi .38 Special +P revolver he’d bought for his wife, Joyce. It’s not among the guns Taurus agreed to fix or buy back. Joyce planned to use it for a conceal-and-carry course, but it had problems as soon as she tried to shoot it, hopelessly jamming after a couple of shots, according to the suit. Coleman sent it to Taurus for repair. Taurus told Coleman it had fixed the problem and returned the gun. The revolver broke again when Coleman tried to clean it; the firing pin simply fell out, the lawsuit alleges.

Coleman asked for a replacement, but Taurus decided to fix it again. Now Coleman wanted to see if it was finally working. He loaded the revolver from a box of 100 Winchester .38 special full metal jacket rounds, which the gun is graded to use.

Coleman knew his way around guns; he’d been a cop for a decade and now oversaw a special team at the Durham County jail trained to respond to riots. Before that he’d served 10 years in the U.S. Air Force. At the range he fired off some rounds, gripping the Rossi with both hands. When he switched to a one-handed grip and fired, the gun blew into three big pieces, his suit alleges. The force was so violent it took off Coleman’s right index finger above the first knuckle and shattered the remaining bone. His blood and tissue were spread across the firing range.

It took Coleman three and a half months to recover enough to return to work on light duty and six months to get back to full duty. In his suit, he says doctors tell him the pain and tingling in his hand will never go away. Coleman accuses Taurus of breach of express warranty and negligence. (Coleman, through his attorneys, declined to comment for this story.) Taurus, in court filings, denied the allegations and alleged that Coleman mishandled his weapon. Wheeles says several people have recently approached him with cases of misfirings of Taurus gun models that are now on the market.

Thousands of miles south, in Brazil’s São Paulo state, Rogerio Mello is still living his Taurus horror story. In 2013, Mello, an assistant Civil Police precinct commander and SWAT team leader in Ribeirão Preto, set his Taurus PT-640 service pistol, snug inside a detachable holster, on a little ledge while he used the restroom. He saw the gun slide off the ledge; he heard it discharge when it hit the tile floor; but he swears he didn’t feel anything as the slug tore into his abdomen, piercing his liver and right lung before stopping just short of his spine. “I couldn’t believe I’d been shot. There was no pain,” he recalls. He spent the next few years in and out of the hospital and then in court as his superiors fought his efforts to collect disability and damages. The police forensic ballistic report concluded the pistol may have been defective, causing it to misfire, but the state of São Paulo, his employer, accused him of mishandling the gun, which he denies. When he was well enough to work, commanders assigned him to his current post, in Serrana, a small town outside Ribeirão Preto, effectively demoting him.

Mello can live with all that, he says. What’s hard is going to work every day with another Taurus pistol strapped to his waist. The force requires him to carry it. So he makes sure the Taurus doesn’t have a chambered round, a potentially dangerous practice, since he won’t be ready to fire in an emergency. He also carries his personal weapon, a Bersa Thunder 380, this one always ready to fire. “It’s a constant source of stress and fear, worrying how to keep this gun from hurting me,” he says. “But I have no choice. Taurus always wins.”

Content provided by: Bloomberg