Former firearms dealer Ray Coxe admits that he and his sales staff made mistakes in properly recording firearms transactions, but he says he never made illegal sales.
“I have had to release about eight sales clerks over the last 10 years because they failed to do their job properly and caused this kind of a problem,” Coxe said. “I’m responsible, ultimately. I have made the best efforts that I can to correct them.”
Coxe spent all day Wednesday on the witness stand answering questions from a plaintiff’s attorney in a civil lawsuit. The family of Simone Kim alleges that Coxe, as owner and manager of Rayco Sales, was responsible for Kim’s death. Kim was shot and killed by Jason Coday in August 2006 with a rifle obtained from Coxe’s shop.
After 39 years, Coxe still runs his store, but he lost his federal firearms license in April. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms inspectors say they counted hundreds of errors over the last nine years in Form 4473 submissions. That’s the basic form that any potential firearms purchaser must fill out so that a dealer can call for a background check prior to completing the sale.
ATF also noted numerous firearms — as many as 216 guns just in 2008 — that were missing and unaccounted for. Every firearms dealer is required to keep a logbook and record when each firearm is acquired, the serial number of the weapon, and when it was disposed. In addition to purchases by walk-in customers, dealers are required to record the transfer of firearm shipments from one dealer to another.
While testifying Wednesday, Coxe admitted that completed Form 4473s were sometimes incorrect, incomplete, misplaced, or lost. He also conceded that he and his staff were not as diligent as they should’ve been in recording sales and transfers.
But Coxe bristled a few times while being questioned by Jonathon Lowy of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Coxe objected to ATF language in warning letters that any continued violations by him would constitute “willful” conduct that would lead to revocation of his federal firearms license.
Coxe also said that he never sold a gun “off the books” by, for example, intentionally avoiding a background check or recording the sale.
“You’re accusing me of something that didn’t happen,” Coxe answered after a line of questioning by Lowy. “Show me in every one of these missing guns one case where I sold a gun illegally. You bring one witness in to show that I sold a gun illegally. One. You can’t do it because I don’t operate that way. JPD would’ve found out if I sold that many guns. I’d be in Lemon Creek (Correctional Center).”
“I don’t sell guns illegally,” Coxe testified.
The Kim family is seeking millions of dollars in damages from Coxe for Simone’s death. But first, the jury must determine if Coxe negligently entrusted the weapon with Coday and if Coxe failed to do a background check before selling or transferring the weapon to him.
The civil trial is expected to last through the end of next week.
In what may be a somewhat rare occurrence in Alaska trial courts, Superior Court Judge Philip Pallenberg told jurors on Tuesday that they will have the opportunity to submit their own questions for witnesses in the case.