Colorado Democrat Jason Crow is among those leading the way in the House’s attempt to repeal the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, a 2005 law that prevents businesses from being sued over the third party actions of criminals who use guns. Crow took part in a virtual press conference on Thursday, spinning the “Equal Access to Justice for Victims of Gun Violence Act” as some sort of accountability measure.
After Jessica Ghawi was killed in the Aurora theater shooting, her parents went bankrupt in their attempt to sue the ammunition dealer who sold $4,000 worth of weapons without a background check. After losing their lawsuit, the family owed over $200,000 in legal fees.“I am home to some of the nation’s most horrific shootings, from Columbine to the Aurora theater shooting to STEM School and others,” Crow stated. “When I talk to those families, when I talk to the victims and survivors, they have no recourse, they have no avenues to go to, these companies, these manufacturers these ammo dealers who are negligent.”
Crow’s statement shows just how dishonest his argument really is. The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act doesn’t prevent lawsuits alleging negligent entrustment; i.e. selling a gun or ammo when they have reason to believe they’re intended to be used in a crime. Lawsuits can also be filed over things like product defects, criminal conduct, and any other activity for which they are directly responsible. What the PLCAA prevents are junk lawsuits designed to bankrupt the firearms industry by holding individual companies responsible for the third-party acts of criminals.
That was the argument used by the attorneys for Ghawi’s parents Sandy and Lonnie Phillips, which happened to include lawyers from Brady (then known as the Brady Center to Prevent Handgun Violence). Federal Judge Richard Matsch dismissed the lawsuit and ordered the family to pay the legal fees of the companies that were sued, which is a provision in Colorado state law. Jason Crow wants to get rid of federal protections, but under state law the Ghawi’s lawsuit was never going to be successful either, and every attorney involved in the case knew it. As Reuters reported back in 2018, when the family finally gave up their appeals and was told it owed $203,000 in legal fees to the companies they sued:
If that award caused the Phillipses hardship, the judge said, perhaps their “sponsors” at the Brady Center could help. “It is apparent that this case was filed to pursue the political purposes of the Brady Center and, given the failure to present any cognizable legal claim, bringing these defendants into the Colorado court where the prosecution of James Holmes was proceeding appears to be more of an opportunity to propagandize the public and stigmatize the defendants than to obtain a court order which counsel should have known would be outside the authority of this court,” Matsch wrote. “Those who ignite a fire should be responsible for the cost of suppressing it before it becomes a conflagration. The Brady Center may be pursuing a righteous cause, but the defendants should not have to bear the burden of defending themselves in this inappropriate forum.”
That’s scathing language from Judge Matsch, in essence accusing the gun control group of using the Phillips as pawns in an attempt to vilify the firearms industry with a lawsuit that had no chance of success. Weird how that stinging rebuke to one of the biggest gun control outfits in the country didn’t get much media coverage at the time, isn’t it?
I doubt many media outlets will bring up Matsch’s comment now that Democrats are reviving their attempt to bankrupt the gun industry through lawsuits that claim they’re culpable for the actions of any and all who use a firearm in a criminal act. Crow’s new bill isn’t about providing anyone access to equal justice, it’s about providing no one with access to legally purchase a gun.