PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- When her daughter died Monday, Connie Clay began her three-day wait.
The distraught Ms. Clay, 52, tried to buy a gun but was told that Florida law requires a "cooling off" period.
Yesterday, Ms. Clay viewed her daughter, Christina, for the last time at a funeral home. Later, she picked up her new gun, went home and fatally shot herself in the head, police said.
Christina, 20, of Boca Raton died Monday from injuries suffered three weeks ago in a car wreck. Later that day, her mother paid for a semi-automatic pistol at a Fort Pierce gun store.
"If we had known that she was in a state of grief because of what happened to her daughter . . . I know we would not have sold her the gun," said Sharon Brown, daughter of the president of Mom and Pop's Guns and Jewelry, where Ms. Clay bought the gun.
Police said Ms. Clay's relatives frantically tried to call gun shops when she left the house yesterday, describing the woman and asking the store owners not to sell her a gun.
Relatives reached Mom and Pop's Guns and Jewelry, but it was too late. Ms. Clay had just left. The employee who sold Ms. Clay the .380-caliber semi-automatic handgun called 911.
But Ms. Clay had already locked herself in the bedroom of her home at 1232-D N.W. Sun Terrace Circle in St. Lucie West.
Her family tried to talk to Ms. Clay through the door, but arriving police told them they had to leave the house.
As they were leaving, the gun went off, the bullet killing Connie Clay, police said.
Daughter injured June 16
Her daughter was seriously injured June 16 in a one-car crash in Boca Raton. The Boca Raton Community High School graduate was taken to Delray Beach Community Hospital but was later transferred to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami where she died of her injuries.
Family members declined to comment.
According to police, Connie Clay could not accept her daughter's death.
Out-of-town family members, in the area for her daughter's funeral, were unable to reason with her.
Yesterday morning Ms. Clay went with relatives to view the body at Yate's funeral home in Fort Pierce.
The family returned to the house, and Ms. Clay left with her niece, saying she wanted to go back to the funeral home.
She instead gave her niece directions to the gun store.
Opponents of Florida's three-day waiting period, in effect since 1991, say this case is a perfect example of how the law does not work.
"Waiting periods don't work, either as a deterrent to crime or a deterrent to suicide," said Marion Hammer, first vice president of the National Rifle Association in Tallahassee.
"Those intent on committing suicide will find a way to do it," she said.
Officer defends waiting period
Port St. Lucie Police Department Sgt. Jeff Harsh agreed that the waiting period might not deter a suicidal person.
"But it will prevent heat-of-passion killings," he said. "It at least allows a cooling-off period."
Ms. Brown, of Mom and Pop's, said the clerk who sold Ms. Clay the gun reported that the woman had seemed rational.
"It seemed like a normal transaction," Ms. Brown said.
"My heart goes out to the family," she said.
"There's no way by looking at a person to tell what they're going to do."
Christina Clay's funeral was last night in Boca Raton.
Arrangements for Connie Clay were incomplete.