Hunting

Firearms instructor targets faulty rifles

After his son’s death, Barber said he felt “morally obligated to do something” even though he is “adamantly pro gun.” It hasn’t been easy on his family. Here, he looks through documents that he’s amassed during his investigation into Remington Arms Co.
After his son’s death, Barber said he felt “morally obligated to do something” even though he is “adamantly pro gun.” It hasn’t been easy on his family. Here, he looks through documents that he’s amassed during his investigation into Remington Arms Co. The Billings Gazette

Richard Barber would like to save at least one life this hunting season.

The 57-year-old Manhattan, Mont.-area firearms instructorhas a simple message. Remington Model 600 and 700 rifle owners should shouldn’t ignore an upcoming recall. If they sell their rifle or pass it down to a family member they are perpetuating possible injury or death to the gun’s next handler, Barber said.

I’m saying the safety is an actual source of accidental discharge, and therefore the public is at a tremendous disadvantage. They don’t control what happens.

Richard Barber, on his crusade to get gun owners to pay attention to a rifle recall

Phone calls to Remington Arms Co. employees for comment on this story were not returned.

Barber is uniquely positioned to advise such caution. His son was killed in 2000 when his wife went to unload her Remington Model 700 rifle. When she pushed the safety into the off position to enable her to work the bolt and remove the shell, the gun went off. The bullet went through an aluminum horse trailer, struck the frame and fragmented. Some of the fragments struck 9-year-old Gus, who was on the other side of the trailer. He died an hour and 15 minutes later at the hospital.

“People don’t understand how this has not just killed people, but it has destroyed lives,” Barber said.

It’s estimated that 12.7 million Americans older than 16 hunt with a rifle, shotgun or handgun, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Senior U.S. District Judge Ortrie Smith is set to rule in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Mo., in December on the class-action lawsuit, which was filed by gun owners who claimed that Remington knew its firing mechanisms were defective. As part of the settlement, Remington has not admitted any wrongdoing or that its products are defective.

I only have to make a difference for one person. However, I have finally come to the realization (that) I can’t save everyone from themselves.

Richard Barber, on his crusade to get gun owners to pay attention to a rifle recall

Because of his research and the stories published based on the documents Barber has revealed, he said there’s no reason that Remington rifle owners should not have their firearm repaired after the upcoming December court settlement.

It won’t be the first recall. In 2002, as a result of Barber’s lawsuit, Remington issued a recall of some of its “bolt lock” rifles manufactured in the 1960s, ’70s and early ’80s. But Barber thinks that gun owners’ response has been tepid.

“This well of knowledge is out there, it exists in the public domain; but if they don’t get the gun fixed they have to live with the outcome,” Barber said. “The difference is today, people need to take this issue seriously.”

Barber said he feels like his work has proven that one person can make a difference, even against a large corporation. Now he’s ready to bow out of the limelight, hoping that gun owners have received his message.

“I only have to make a difference for one person,” he said. “However, I have finally come to the realization (that) I can’t save everyone from themselves.”

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