Over the years, we’ve been fortunate enough to meet lots of shooters and, through that process, see lots of guns (mostly handguns) with various levels of modifications. Now those modifications ranged from basically the smallest customization you can imagine (think +2 mag extension) all the way up to some seriously awesome custom guns. Some of those modifications were designed to enhance performance, while others were strictly cosmetic. Some of the cosmetic work we’ve seen included various inscriptions and custom hydro-dipping. While it’s a free country, and I firmly support one’s desire to customize a gun, some of the inscriptions we’ve seen and some of the hydro-dipping choices were a little risque, and I always wondered about any potential legal issues that might come up should the weapon ever be used in a self defense incident. Well, even though it sounds like I’m being paranoid to a point, based on a fairly recent case in Mesa, AZ, it looks like there might be something to that theory.
The case I’m referring to is the case of Mesa police officer Phillip Brailsford, who is currently charged with 2nd degree murder in an officer-related shooting that occurred in January 2016 at a Mesa hotel. If you research the incident online, you’ll see 10 different versions of the incident reported by 10 different news agencies. The gist of the incident seems to indicate that Brailsford and other Mesa PD officers responded to a report of a man pointing a rifle at people through the window of a 5th floor hotel room. When officers responded to the room in question, they made contact with a male and female subject. Both were ordered out of the room and onto their hands and knees. According to Brailsford, the male subject, Daniel Shaver, made a “motion” with his hands towards his waistband. Brailsford, feeling threatened, fired 5 shots from his AR, striking the unarmed Shaver, who later died.
It was later discovered that the AR used was not owned by the department, but was a personal weapon owned by Brailsford. However, the Mesa PD had authorized Brailsford to carry the weapon on duty. The AR had the inscription “You’re Fu**ed” (with asterisks being used in lieu of the actual spelling) on the inside of the rifle’s dust cover as seen below:
The officer is currently facing charges of 2nd degree murder. The attorney for the family, Laney Sweet, indicated that the inscription implied that Brailsford “was enthusiastic about using the rifle to kill people”. Interestingly enough, prior to the discovery of the inscription, the Mesa PD seemed to support Brailsford. However, he was subsequently terminated from employment after the inscription became public, and Mesa PD indicated that the termination was a result of the inscription, which was a violation of their policies.
Now, it’s obvious that the inscription referenced above isn’t the only factor being considered with the charges. Clearly, one would believe that there’s a sufficient amount of other evidence, above and beyond the inscription, for the District Attorney of that county to bring charges. However, one can’t help but suspect that the inscription most likely played a role in those charges. If it didn’t play a direct role, it certainly couldn’t have helped matters for the officer.
And the issue really isn’t just limited to inscriptions either, as we’ve seen handguns with various skulls, skulls and crossbones, etchings of zombies being shot, etc. One of our customers has a Glock 26 that he sent to a specialty shop for a custom hydro-dipped finish of skulls. Does it look cool? Absolutely. Would I ever carry it for CCW? Not a chance. The owner even said that it seemed like a good idea at the time, but he wasn’t comfortable carrying the gun anymore as the skull finish could be “misconstrued” if he ever had to use the weapon in self defense.
So the moral of this story is: Before you embark on any modifications to your CCW weapon that might be considered risque (and only you can be the judge of what is risque) ask yourself, “How would I feel if a jury saw this?” If the answer is anything other than “it’s no problem,” you might want to rethink it.
I know that’s playing to a PC compliant world, but it’s the world we live in these days.