Two families that lost loved ones in the Valentine’s Day mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are looking for some accountability, and not just from the school shooter.
On Thursday, Parkland parents Fred and Jennifer Guttenberg and Max Schachter, the parents of students Jaime Guttenberg and Alex Schachter who died in the attack, are filing a lawsuit against the gun store where the high school shooter bought his AR-15 and the gun manufacturer that made it.
The Parkland parents argue that Sunrise Tactical Supply, the gun store, and American Outdoor Brands, the gun manufacturer, are “complicit” in the deaths of their children and 15 other students.
NBC News states, “It’s the first lawsuit filed in Florida since the Feb. 14 shooting that specifically targets the gun industry as a whole.”
However, the Parkland parents may face a roadblock because of a Florida statute that aims to protect gun stores and manufacturers from such lawsuits.
The 2001 law, Florida Statute 790.331, explicitly prohibits state, county and city government agencies from suing businesses over the legal manufacture and sale of weapons that are later used unlawfully. The law is silent on whether victims can sue on those grounds.
The same law allows governments and victims to sue over defects in the weapons, but “the potential of a firearm or ammunition to cause serious injury, damage, or death as a result of normal function does not constitute a defective condition of the product.”
Though the Sun-Sentinel states the law does not specify whether or not victims of gun violence can sue businesses or gun manufacturers if a weapon is used to commit a crime, the next sentence seems to answer the question of whether that position will hold up in court. While a defect in a weapon can be grounds for a lawsuit, a weapon’s ability to cause harm due to its normal function does not count.
While Florida has its statute, there is also a law protecting against these kinds of frivolous lawsuits at the federal level.
In 2005, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) was passed by Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush to protect gun businesses and gun manufacturers from being penalized for the actions of criminals who legally purchased or illegally obtained their firearms so they could commit crimes.
Within the PLCAA, Congress stated:
Sec. 2. Findings; Purposes
(a) Findings- Congress finds the following:
(3) Lawsuits have been commenced against manufacturers, distributors, dealers, and importers of firearms that operate as designed and intended, which seek money damages and other relief for the harm caused by the misuse of firearms by third parties, including criminals.”
(b) Purposes- The purposes of this Act are as follows:
(1) To prohibit causes of action against manufacturers, distributors, dealers, and importers of firearms or ammunition products, and their trade associations, for the harm solely caused by the criminal or unlawful misuse of firearm products or ammunition products by others when the product functioned as designed and intended.
If gun businesses and gun manufacturers follow current gun laws, and gun purchasers pass background checks, there’s no reason for a gun store or gun manufacturer to be held accountable for upholding the law and allowing Americans to exercise their Second Amendment right. Responsibility should fall solely on the individuals who chose to abuse their right to bear arms and those businesses that are negligent when selling firearms.
It’s important to note that gun stores have been held accountable for selling firearms to individuals who should not be in possession of them. In 2015, Bearing Arms reported on a Wisconsin gun business that was charged with negligence for allowing a straw purchase to take place. When the news broke, the anti-gun left attempted to spin the facts of the case to fight against the necessary PLCAA, even though the Act does not protect such a business.
This lawsuit from the Parkland parents may face the same fate as the lawsuit against Remington which was brought forward by the families of the victims of the Sandy Hook shooting. It has been dismissed on several occasions.