Thinking of getting an inscription or engraving on your firearms? One of the first questions that many gun owners often ask is if these inscriptions could be used as evidence against their character in court. Since many people purchase firearms primarily to protect themselves, this can be a big concern—and as one case in Arizona shows, those inscriptions can certainly be used against you.

Mesa police officer Phillip Brailsford is currently charged with the second-degree murder of Daniel Shaver, who was involved in an on-duty shooting earlier this year. According to Tuscon News Now, the shooting happened in a hotel room after police received a call about an armed man on the fifth floor of the La Quinta Inn. Prosecutors say that the weapon was actually a pellet gun used by Shaver for his pest control job. Officers found Shaver at the inn and ordered him onto his belly, during which he reached for his waistband and Brailsford shot him five times. The shooting was recorded on a body camera worn by the responding officers.

In court on Tuesday, Brailsford pleaded not guilty to the charges, but a new piece of evidence may may hinder his defense. A police investigation following the shooting turned up a service rifle used by Brailsford that had a inscription on the inside of the rifle’s dust cover. Officials say that Brailsford personally purchased the rifle and used it for police duties. It is believed to have been the weapon used to kill Shaver.

“Inscripted on the officer’s gun, and I hate to use profanity, but it said, “you’re f*****,”’ Laney Sweet, Daniel Shaver’s wife, said.

Sweet’s lawyer argued that the inscription implied that Brailsford “was enthusiastic” about using the rifle to kill people.

“He executed Daniel Shaver. He murdered an innocent man,”attorney Marc Victor told KPNX. “The victim wants Officer Brailsford treated like everyone else.”

The Mesa Police Department said in a statement that the inscription was against the department’s policy and that an investigation is underway. Mesa Police Chief John Meza also expressed his concerns over the situation and recommended that Brailsford be fired from the department. This is in direct opposition to a previous statement by Brailsford where he said Chief Meza supported him and agreed that the shooting was justified. Brailsford, who is the son of a veteran police officer that once served in the same department, said he was shocked by the charges.

“It’s just a really tragic situation,” the officer’s lawyer, Craig Mehrens, told The Arizona Republic. “my client is not guilty.”

You can watch a short interview with Sweet and her lawyer below:

Tucson News Now

Image courtesy Votesmall Image courtesy Votesmall

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12 thoughts on “Can Gun Inscriptions Be Used Against You in Court?

  1. The officer is not guilty. Case law says it is what is happening during the time the event is happening. The guy went for his waistband. There is cause right there to shoot. As far as any inscription, it shouldn’t matter at the time of the shooting. The shooting was justified. The dead mans lawyer would probably come after someone saying they shot his client with hollow point bullets, which was intentionally used to kill his client. Yeah. When I pull my gun, I’m going to stop the threat in whatever way I have to. Inscriptions didn’t make the officer pull the trigger, his aggressor did.

    1. You’re probably right, from a technical standpoint. Either the shooting was justified, or it wasn’t. But from a practical standpoint, it looks bad. And when you’re up on a murder charge in front of a jury made up of people who are not lawyers, you don’t need any facts hanging out there that look bad. I would avoid it.

      1. Agreed. I believe I’ve read that even custom sights and trigger mods sometimes bring the shooter’s “innocence” into question. Just a fact of carrying a gun, folks. Doesn’t matter if we like it, or not.

    2. Jimmy, you are making a statement of fact that is impossible to support. The prosecutor was convinced by Brailsford’s body cam footage that a 2nd degree murder charge was warranted. There is no evidence he ‘went for his waistband.’ If that could be corroborated by witness or video footage, you might have a point. But in the absence of that, all one can say is that Brailsford is PRESUMED to be innocent, until proven guilty, preferably by the Biblical standard of two or more witnesses.

    3. Actually, it was not a justified shooting according to pretty much any police ROE.

      Granted, the article is pretty short on details, but since when is it illegal to be armed in a state with Constitutional Carry. Arizona does not require a permit to carry open or concealed.

      “When I pull my gun, I’m going to stop the threat in whatever way I have to. Inscriptions didn’t make the officer pull the trigger, his aggressor did.”

      What aggression are you referring to? I sincerely hope you are not a LEO with your attitude.

  2. “Officers found Shaver at the inn and ordered him onto his belly, during which he reached for his waistband and Brailsford shot him five times.”

    This is irresponsible journalism. This is a statement from the defendant being reported as fact, indicating bias towards law enforcement. According to the testimony of those who were allowed to view the body cam footage, the victim was in complete compliance. According to the prosecutor, the footage was so damning that he deemed it unnecessary to show it to the grand jury before filing a charge of murder in the 2nd degree.

  3. We were told at the Police academy two decades ago never to modify a duty gun or defense attorneys would portray you as a gun nut. This officer was just plain stupid and yes it does reflect character and should be used.

  4. Officer Brailsford has a pretty little wife. She looks young enough to
    start over with a different husband. I hope Brailsford and his wife
    don’t have any children. If she has children she’s damaged goods as far
    as finding another husband and provider is concerned. Brailsford is
    finished. He’s unemployable except in the most menial and low paying
    jobs. I appeal to Mrs. Brailsford. Jettison your husband. He’s a loser.
    Cut your losses early and move on.

  5. I believe in being the “gray man.” I don’t put any inscriptions on my guns, post signs around my property saying anything like “Insured by S&W” or “Trespassers will be shot,” and I don’t even put NRA stickers on my car. Concealed carry and low profile all the way.

  6. There is not enough information in the story to form an intelligent opinion on the guilt or innocence of the officer . There is however a bias shown that is more and more prevalent in our country , police officers are deemed to be guilty until proven innocent ,criminals are not . This has been the mantra of the news media for several years , and increasingly so for a decade .

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