Sandy Hook Gun Lawsuit Allowed to Proceed (For the Moment)

Millions of Americans lawfully own and responsibly use AR15s everyday, but relatives of the Sandy Hook school shooting victims are trying to use the court system to hold manufacturers of the rifle accountable for the acts of a criminal.  The over-zealous plaintiffs previously filed their lawsuit against Remington Arms in federal court, and the federal court judge rightfully tossed the case to the curb.  But the plaintiffs refiled the lawsuit in state court.  Today, the state court judge decided to allow the case to proceed, although she will allow the defendants to raise their claim of immunity again later on.

The filing of this lawsuit is in contradiction of current federal law that was specifically enacted to prevent this type of back-door gun control.  

Congress passed the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act in 2005 to protect firearms dealers and manufacturers from these specific types of suits. The number one purpose of the law is to prevent lawsuits against dealers and manufacturers “for the harm solely caused by the criminal or unlawful misuse of firearm products . . .”.  If such a case is filed, in federal or state court, the law requires that the court dismiss it.

Manufacturers and dealers can still be held liable for defective products, breach of contract, criminal misconduct, or other violations of the law. Similar laws protect manufacturers of automobiles, power tools, and other “dangerous” products from over-zealous plaintiffs looking for someone to blame for the actions of an individual. 

Of course, an activist judge coupled with aggressive lawyering will find ways around any law. The plaintiffs in the pending state lawsuit are creatively trying to argue their way around the PLCAA by claiming that the way in which the manufacturer marketed the rifle to the public was negligent.  If you’re shaking your head and trying to understand this argument, you’re not alone. They are arguing that the manufacturer was negligent in producing and distributing the AR-15 rifle to a populace who is not trained to use it, would not understand its power, and the manufacturer “knew” its AR-15 rifle used in the Sandy Hook shooting “wasn’t suitable for civilian use when it was introduced in the market.” The plaintiffs argue that the way Remington markets its “military-style weapon to the civilian market” is a form of “negligent entrustment,” which is an exception to the immunity legislation. They claim that the manufacturer should have foreseen that someone would misuse such a rifle, because it poses an unreasonable and egregious risk of injury to other people.  They also make a second, creative argument, that alleges that the marketing violates Connecticut state law prohibiting deceptive advertising.

It’s easy for those of us who support and try to protect the Constitution to see the effect of allowing this type of a case:  the criminals will still run free, but we will no longer be able to find a firearm for sale to defend ourselves.