Interview with Michael Bryant

Michael Bryant

- Former employee of Lorcin Engineering who worked as a Production Line Supervisor at the company's gun assembly plant. Bryant filed a claim with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing that Lorcin Engineering engaged in racial discrimination. A settlement was reached with the company and Bryant received $3,400.

Q: When did you work at Lorcin, and how long were you there?

"They wanted the numbers out more than quality. They would send guns out that they knew [weren't] up to par and that's why the guns would come back." Bryant: I worked at Lorcin...approximately four years ago. ... and that would be in '92. I was there approximately twelve months.

Q: What was your job?

Bryant: I was a line supervisor, and my job was to ensure that the line of .380 slides and .380 frames, .22 slides and .22 frames, and .25 slides and .25 frames were sanded down and sent out to other departments ready to be chrome plated and brought back for serialization...[T]he guns came in like raw material, they had a lot of rough edges on them. So what we did is, we'd take the rough edges off, and we'd sand them down, use files and different machines... make them able to fit the other moveable parts, as in slides, the triggers, and the other parts that went onto the gun for semi-automatic weapons...basically to have the gun ready for functioning, for the use of assembly and firing.

Q: [Y]ou say you were a line supervisor. What does that mean.

Bryant: A line supervisor [is] a person, what you call a lead man. He's next under the foreman....and he oversees employees that [have] been placed under him, under his supervision. In my case I had like thirty-two employees.

Q: [H]ow well-made were the guns?

Bryant: The guns were put together very quickly. They weren't made as [well as], say, Smith & Wesson. They didn't have that quality.

Q: Did you see a lot of guns coming back for repairs, and what percentage, do you know?

Bryant: No, they had a special department that dealt with the returns itself. I know that there were letters that they had received from customers, from all over the nation, complaining about the guns misfiring, and not firing, and slides sticking. And that's one reason why the de-burring department [had] some problems with the design. So that's why the de-burring department was there, so that it could, more or less, make the guns to fit where it should have been fitting automatically from the designers. So we'd have to really sand, and really use a lot of files to make the slides--especially the slides--to fit on the .380's, themselves. The .25's didn't seem to have as [many] problems [as] the .380's in the sliding department, as far as the gun sliding of movement.

Q: Did the management there ever talk to you about quality, to try to get people to improve the quality of the guns? Did they give you a sense that quality and good manufacturing was important?

Bryant: I got the sense that it was more of production...than quality. Even to the point of where they were talking about making a disposable gun, a plastic gun.

Q: [W]ere they communicating to you that production was more important than quality?

Bryant: Well, just making sure that we get the numbers out. They gave us specific numbers for us to [meet] to give to the other departments. And if I didn't have that number out, then I would hear something about it. So I was being pushed to get that number out. And my goal was to make sure that the production level was up, and that also that we could do as much as we could on the guns as far as the de-burring department, to sand them down as much as we could, but we could only do so much.

Q: What did you know about guns disappearing from the production line?

Bryant: Oh, yes,there was no way to tell, unless the serial numbers were on there. But you could take the gun. The easiest way (to do so) is (to) take the gun before they went out to be serialized, or plated. Before they went out to be plated they had to be serialized. But before you send them over to have a serial number put on them, you could take a gun piece by piece. You could take the frame, you could take it home if you know how to build a gun. You could take the slide another day, you could take all the moveable parts and you could build a gun at home.

And that's what a lot of employees were doing. In fact, some people were terminated because... they were. Some were working in the assembly department and were caught stealing guns, and were terminated.

Q: And how do you know that they were taken? Maybe he was just moving [them] from one location to the next.

Bryant: Well, you're not supposed to take any guns to any location for any reason. The employees are not supposed to do that, and John's son was also an employee. [T]he guns went out when they were completely finished. You're not supposed to take them home and work on them at home, and the United Parcel Service was the ones who... came to pick up guns... and they sent the guns out (for) shipping and receiving. That's the only way that I knew that they were sending guns out.

Q: In the process of assembly, if there were bad guns, did you discard them?

Bryant: We had a way of discarding them, but they weren't always discarded. We would take them and we'd use a sledge hammer, a small sledge hammer and we would break the barrel of the gun so it couldn't be used. But they weren't always done that way. And we had boxes full of discarded guns. And they were taken and dumped in the trash bin outside. So if you wanted to take a gun, and if you were breaking guns or putting barrels on the gun and you wanted to break a gun up for any other reason , [you could] then slide a gun within the box that you were going to take outside and throw in the trash bin. You could just put it outside and pick it up later that evening, because the trash would be there until the next morning.

Q: How could somebody just walk off with a gun?

Bryant: Well, there was no security. There was absolutely no security at all. They had no security officers, no metal detectors, anything like that, so employees could easily take a gun and put it in their lunch pail and walk off with it that evening.

Q: Do you know people that did that?

Bryant: I don't know [anyone] personally, but I've heard that people were doing that.

Q: Do you have any evidence from the numbers of guns you saw going through--you were the foreman--that guns were missing?

Bryant: [F]rom my department, I just knew that there were so many guns that it was just hard to tell. It was hard to say how many guns would be coming [and] missing. But there was a case later on that it all came out. That there were guns being stolen from Lorcin's. And it was a big case and the [ATF] Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms got involved in it and there were some people convicted behind it, but this [has] been going on for a long time. It was just that they got caught.

Q: Describe the security there at Lorcin.

Bryant: The security was basically left up to the lead man and the foreman. Myself, Howard, Rick, and Dennis, that was it. There was no other security. ...The shipping and receiving department was right before you went into the .380 department, and the lunch room was right behind that. So whenever you come to lunch you would pass right by the shipping and receiving. Or when ever you came out of lunch you would go past shipping and receiving, and guns would be laying right there, there was no partition, no door or anything, it was just wide open. So you walk right through there and take them away...I was there when guns were missing. Or came up missing.

Q: Guns were just lying around for the taking?

Bryant: They were lying around, you could just take [them] if you were slick about it and watchful, you could take whatever you wanted....The other thing was there were guys that would be coming and picking up other guys after work, and they would be talking to their friends about who (was) involved in gangs. That's what happened with the young men who got in trouble (for) stealing guns and selling them to the gangs locally on the streets here in Riverside. That's what happened. But that had been going on for awhile, so there was an inside thing where they were talking to their friends about it on the streets, and then they came up with a plan to take [a certain] amount of guns and then distribute them to the gang members on the streets.

Q: Was there any effort to stop this? What sort of security was there to stop this kind of thing?

Bryant: There was talk about getting metal (detectors), and they were getting ready to move into another building, and the government was supposed to be coming and taking the account of all the guns with the serial numbers. But when I was there it didn't happen. It hadn't happened yet.

Q: What you're describing seems very casual. Weren't people realizing how dangerous this product was?

Bryant: I believe that most people were just happy to have a job. That's what I think. That they were more happy to have a job, and...(were) not really (inclined to) protest about anything. ...I tried to get the employees' awareness up and to teach them that they had certain rights, but it didn't really work....

Q: Did they do any kind of check on the background of employees? Did they check that they didn't have a criminal record or anything like that?

Bryant: I don't think they did a thorough check. The job I work at now, they did a thorough check as far as fingerprinting and everything and they sent your fingerprints in. They didn't do that there at Lorcin.

Q: Were guns being sold by employees in the factory while you were there?

Bryant: Yes...they were being stolen . . .Guns....380's, .25's, slides and frames, and also, complete assembled guns were also being stolen...straight out of the factory by employees.

Q: Do you think that the management knew of this?

Bryant: I think the management was aware of it...they could not have been unaware of it.

Q: Why?

Bryant: Because people talk, and there were some employees that worked there that were really concerned about their job and about the safety of the company, so I know that they brought it up and talked to them about it.

Q: Did you ever talk to one of the supervisors about it?

Bryant: I talked to them about it slightly, not very much, because it just seemed like it didn't do any good. So I mainly just did my job, did what I was supposed to do, tried to stay out of it and just tried to deal with the production, what they wanted to come out of my department.

Q: Explain how the serial numbers were put on the guns...

Bryant: The serial numbers were placed on the gun on a punch press through a die, and it was just regular numbers 1,2,3,4, all the way up. And if we skipped a number, if something happened and the number jammed we would set the number back, and go over it again. If we had two numbers on the same gun, then we'd probably end up supposed to be destroying the one, and keeping the other, so we have a record of two guns with the same exact serial number.

Q: Once they started, once they put a serial number on the gun, was a record kept of that gun all the way through the manufacturing process?

Bryant: Now that I can't answer. I don't know. Far as I know, just the serial numbers were logged in a regular, legal pad, far as [I] know. What happened to that after that, I don't know. If they were kept in a file or anything, I'm not sure.

Q: Were there bar codes on any of the boxes of the serial numbers?

Bryant: No, at the time when I worked there, there were no bar codes on the matching the serial numbers, when I was working there.

Q: Tell me about the idea that you had to document what was going on in your department?

Bryant I came up with an idea on how to number how many .380's came into my department--how many went out of my department, how many .25's came into my department, and how many went out .... I would keep an accurate count of numbers, when they came in, and the date that they came in, the date that they left. And I would write that down in a document. I still have those documents....In the very beginning I didn't have [a system], there was nothing to go by. So I came up with that on my own.

Q: Why did you do this? Why did you need to do this?

Bryant: Because it wasn't safe, and there wasn't any security and there were guns coming up missing. I didn't want anyone put the blame up on me. So I would have a document to show that this is how many guns came out of my department...

Q: So there were no company records, or no one in the company accounting for these guns at your stage in assembly.

Bryant: When they came in, far as from the molds, or the place where they made the guns, then they had probably an accurate account there, because they would come in from someplace else, and they would go directly into shipping and receiving. But then they would leave there. Anybody had access to go back there, and take a gun from out of a box. They weren't really sealed, you could just go back there and get one, and then take one home and then if you had a de-burring knife or a file, you can work on the gun yourself. [F]ile it down to whatever you want it. Or you could take the gun out of the de-burring department, or out of the .25 department, and take one piece by piece and put it together at home. So it was the same thing.

Q: There was no one from the company that was keeping track of the guns?

Bryant: Not at that stage. Because even in the .25 department they didn't have that particular document. I had the document that I came up...I gave the invitation to the other departments also. So I gave that document to the .380 department and also to the .25 department. Their way of doing it, it wasn't right. They maybe marked 1,2,3,4,5, and then an a little line across it, but I had a systematic way of doing it.

Q: What, did you go to your supervisors and tell them you were doing this, or ask them to do it in some way?

Bryant: I just showed them that this is what I was doing, and they were happy with that.

Q: But there was nothing, the company had no system in place to keep track of these guns at the time. This was all your own doing.

Bryant: This was my doing. The only track that [the company] had coming in was when the shipping and receiving first came in, before anything was done to the guns. After that there was really no system set up to keep track on the guns that were there. So it was guns just floating everywhere. They could have been anyplace. You could have had .25's in anyplace, or you could have .380's in places where they maybe shouldn't be.

Q: Why wouldn't the executives be worried about these guns that are missing. I mean, that's money to them.

Bryant: I don't know. It puzzled me. But again, I was hired to do a particular task, and that's what I (was) supposed to do. So that's what I did, and tried to keep from causing [problems] as much as possible. Because I had moved up so quickly, and there were certain individuals who really didn't like me being in the position that I was there. Plus the racism that I was up against also. So I didn't want in any way to cause... too many vibes.

Q: What did your plan suggest?

Bryant: Well, just different cuts, costs. ...I had [taken] the keep an accurate record of everything that [was] coming into my department. I had also took it upon myself to keep a record of the papers, toiletries and things of that nature and other supplies that were coming up missing and getting stolen sort of on an everyday scale. [S]o I took another document and came up with another idea and started keeping accurate track of that also.

Q: You're describing an environment that's sloppy at best, but it just doesn't make any sense, given that you know products [are] missing, guns [are] missing, supplies [are] missing...That's capital to the company.

Bryant: Exactly. Exactly. And it would seem that they would want to save money, losing as much money as they were on overhead. And the destruction of some of the guns could have been prevented, if the designing would have went back and maybe, worked on the design a little bit more. I think that, basically, everybody was more or less concerned of just working and glad to have a was a family type setting. So, you have people who had brought their family members in who didn't want to cause any type of vibes, who had been there since the company had started.

Q: Describe for me where the completed guns were kept. I understand they were kept in vaults. Describe what those vaults looked like.

Bryant: I didn't know anything about them being kept in vaults. The guns were being kept in boxes, open to anybody, in the shipping and receiving department. The shipping and receiving department, before they moved across the street, was just a glass [area] with tables inside over by the door. But you could go in there, ...if the door was unlocked you... And when it moved across the street, there was no door whatsoever in the shipping and receiving department.

Q: So the guns were kept in their boxes...put in the case, and then where were those cases stored?

Bryant:...[T]he .25's and .380's were kept within a box, just a regular box, like a shoebox, and they were kept basically outside except maybe in the shipping and receiving department...But there were no vaults that were in there, it was just open, so during lunch time you could go in there, and people did go in there...They were stored right there in the shipping [and] receiving department, til the UPS people would come pick them up. Or they would ship 'em out to other individuals throughout the nation.

Q: Were there employees there that were gang members?

Bryant: They were affiliated with some of the gangs.

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