Victims' families sue gunmaker, lobby for expanded checks after - FOX34 Lubbock

Victims' families sue gunmaker, lobby for expanded checks after Odessa shooting

Posted: Updated:

One year after the spree shooting that killed seven victims and wounded nearly two dozen others in Odessa, the Permian Basin honored the victims at Memorial Gardens with yellow flowers, banners emblazened with "Odessa Strong," and moments of silence.

That message of strength resonated with Isabella Contreras, who personally hung yellow ribbons and laid yellow flowers at markers for each victim -- including her friend, 15-year-old Leilah Hernandez.

"It's hard," she said, wiping away tears, "because it's one more good person that we don't have in the world. It's hard to understand, but sometimes God needs good people up there, so you just have to forgive because... my friend Leilah, that's what she did. She always forgave. She didn't hate anyone and she didn't deserve it."


On Friday, days before the anniversary, two victims' families filed a wrongful death lawsuit against a man federal investigators report manufactured the semi-automatic, assault-style rifle Seth Ator used in the attack. Leilah Hernandez's family is one of the plaintiffs.

The lawsuit names Marcus Braziel as a defendant; last year, ATF agents raided his North Lubbock home days after the attack. Federal court records claim he was involved in illegally building and selling guns across state lines, including to felons.

Braziel has not been charged with a crime, but the lawsuit claims he didn't do his due diligence when he sold Ator the weapon.

"You don't get to sit back on your haunches," Carol Byrne, a victim's sister, said during a press conference Friday, "and sell a gun to anybody walking into your home or via CraigsList or through the mail or however you go about it. You don't get to do that and not face some kind of charge, whether it's criminally or civilly. You don't get to do that because you messed with the wrong families, and we are not going to take this lying down."

Anderson Manufacturing, a business based in Kentucky, is a co-defendant in the suit; it claims the business negligently sold weapons to an unlicensed dealer.


Byrne said the shooting has led her to advocate for expanded background checks for private gun sales. She pushed Congress to pass a bill that would expand those nationwide, requiring even person-to-person sales to go through the FBI background check process the same way commercial sales would.

"I can't watch on the news anymore kids being killed in schools, anymore people being slaughtered in churches and synagogues. I cannot stand by," she declared.

"People say," she continued, "'You know what? A criminal's going to get a gun anyway.' Yes! Yes, he or she will, but then we can prosecute the person that sold the gun to them without a background check. That's what we're fighting for."

Byrne, a gun owner herself, said she supports the Second Amendment, but she said it requires "common sense" additions to protect everyone.

During his visit to Lubbock Monday, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) said expanded background checks are useful in stopping buyers. He's previously passed bills to enforce better reporting to background check systems.

"I think if we're effective at doing away with and eliminating these unlicensed firearm dealers," Sen. Cornyn said, "that we'll be able to catch more people who have no business purchasing a firearm -- because of their mental illness, in this instance."

Ator was banned from owning a gun under federal law because a court found him mentally unfit. He'd failed a background check in 2014. Person-to-person sales do not require a background check under Texas law.

Powered by Frankly
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2020 RAMAR. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy, and Terms of Service, and Ad Choices.