Unsafe Safety?

Baltimore Orioles shortstop Miguel Tejada dives but can't come up with a single by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays' Carl Crawford, during the fourth inning, Tuesday night, April 17, 2007, in St. Petersburg, Fla. The Devil Rays beat Baltimore 6-4.
AP Photo/Chris O'Meara
An hour after his mother took a picture of him last November, 9-year-old Gus Barber lay bleeding to death in her arms. He had been hit by a slug from his mother's Remington Model 700 deer rifle. And Barbara Barber is very, very clear about one thing.

"I pulled the safety off and it fired. The gun went off. My finger was nowhere near the trigger. I had an open hand," she recalled.

That much she will swear to. The rest is a blur.

"I ran around the back side of the trailer and I yelled 'Where's Gus? Where's Gus?'. The bullet had hit him, through his hand and through his abdomen," she said.

Rich Barber scooped up his son and the family raced for help.

"He asked to have his boots removed. He told his mother he was starting to have a hard time breathing and he was getting pale, and I knew it was bad at that point," he said.

At a tiny clinic outside Manhatten, Mont., the nurses gaped.

They were shocked to see a beautiful little boy laying there with a hole blown through him. There's no words to describe it," said Rich.

And there was nothing to be done.

"Gus died at the hospital," said Rich.

When told that people were going to think that she accidentally pulled the trigger, Barb Barber said, "Absolutely not."

It would be easy to assume that this was just another accidental shooting and a grieving family looking to blame anyone but itself. But within hours of Gus' death, the Barber family learned they were not alone — that this same model rifle had been doing the same thing to others — over and over again.

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Click on the links below to read transcipts of the full interviews

Click here for the full interview with the Barbers.

Click here for the full interview with Don Henson.

Click here for the full interview with Erin Noreen.

Click here for the full interview with Sheriff T. Larsen.

Click here for the full interview with Jim Van Daele.

Click here for the full interview with Harvey Perez.

Click here for the full interview with Pete Noreen.

"I hit he safety with my finger off the trigger and all of a sudden it goes 'BOOM'," recalls Don Henson, a hunter.

Erin Noreen, a hunter, had a similar experience: "I just went to take the safety off and it fired."

And the astonishing thing is, no one had connected the dots out here before until the Barber family spoke out about the Remington Model 700 at their church. Immediately, they began to hear from others.

"In no time at all I had 14 people who had experienced the same problem with their firearm. The same Model 700," said Rich Barber.

And they all told the same story. Sheriff T. Larsen from Medicine Horse, Mont. recalls, "Took off the safety and the gun discharged."

Jim Van Daele, a hunter from Big Horn County, Mont. said, "It shot my finger off."

Always the same sequence:

Another hunter, Harvey Perez, said, "It hit on the safety and it went off."

To local gunsmith Pete Noreen, who had also seen a Model 700 go off when the safety was disengaged, it was all too familiar.

"I had the strangest feeling in my stomach. It chokes me up that I knew what happened."

But what really happened in this tiny community in southwest Montana is really not that unique at all. Explore Remington's own records uncovered in a lawsuit and you'll discover hundreds of similar consumer complaints to the company — all about the Model 700. And the question now is: have some gunowners been careless or is this a potentially deadly defective product? Check back for part two in the series Wednesday for some answers.

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