Anti-gun activists have lamented their inability to hold gun companies accountable for the actions of private parties for years. A favorite tactic in days gone by was to argue that companies like Smith & Wesson and Ruger were responsible for criminal actions undertaken by private citizens who were misusing those companies’ products. It was somehow their fault that someone used a gun to shoot another person.
The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act was passed in 2005 to curtail that.
However, that hasn’t stopped anti-gun efforts. Usually, the court tosses the case because, well, they’re stupid. It’s what should have happened before the law was passed, but it didn’t.
Yet not every case has been tossed. Remington is still being sued regarding the Sandy Hook shooting. Attorneys argued that Remington’s marketing was somehow responsible for the killer’s acts, this despite the killer not having actually purchased the gun.
Now, pro-gun forces are making it a point to stand with Remington as the case proceeds.
Ten states and nearly two dozen members of Congress are joining the National Rifle Association in supporting gun-maker Remington Arms as it fights a Connecticut court ruling involving liability for the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
Officials in the 10 conservative states, 22 House Republicans and the NRA are among groups that filed briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday and Wednesday. They urged justices to overturn the Connecticut decision, citing a much-debated 2005 federal law that shields gun makers from liability, in most cases, when their products are used in crimes.
Citing one of the few exemptions in the 2005 federal law, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled 4-3 in March that Remington could be sued under state law over how it marketed the rifle. The decision overturned a ruling by a state trial court judge who dismissed the lawsuit based on the federal law, named the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.
One of the supporting papers filed this week was by officials in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and West Virginia.
Pro-gun forces are clearly digging in for this fight, as well they should. After all, this is the kind of thing that could have far-reaching implications in the firearm industry and, in theory, into other industries as well. Imagine Ford being sued because their marketing suggested that the Mustang is good for street racing, thus making them liable for injuries or deaths occurring from a street race. The courts would bog down with nonsense like this.
In addition to the NRA and these states, the Gun Owners of America have filed a brief as well.
From a press release sent out on Thursday:
Gun Owners of America (GOA) has filed an Amici Curiae brief in the U.S. Supreme Court urging the High Court to reaffirm a federal law which gives firearms manufacturers and dealers protection from lawsuits seeking to hold them responsible for crimes committed by third parties.
In 2005, Congress enacted the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), and this law worked well for many years in preventing lawsuits seeking to financially ruin firearms manufacturers and dealers. Supported by many of the anti-gun organizations that opposed PLCAA, these suits seek to achieve back-door gun control, by running firearms companies out of business.
Although other Courts — including the famously liberal Ninth Circuit — have properly applied the PLCAA, the Connecticut Supreme Court, by a 4 to 3 vote, turned that law on its head to allow plaintiffs a way to sue Remington and others for the Sandy Hook school shooting.
The Connecticut Court repeatedly characterized the AR-15 type weapon used as militaristic and dangerous, even though it is one of the most popular rifles made and sold today. The Connecticut Court found offensive certain standard advertisements for the rifle used in the shooting, which highlighted the power of these rifles, claiming that these ads somehow caused the shootings to occur.
“This case involves a flagrantly erroneous state court interpretation of an important federal statute which protects the People’s exercise of the constitutionally enumerated right to keep and bear arms,” the brief states. “Left uncorrected, this one errant decision will impair significantly the finances of companies in the firearms business, and second, infringe the exercise of the Second Amendment’s inherent right of all Americans to keep and bear arms.”
Erich Pratt, senior vice president of GOA said, “GOA and our two million members and supporters urge the Supreme Court to take up this case. Just as we don’t punish car manufacturers for the deeds of a drunk driver, we shouldn’t punish a firearm manufacturer for the deeds of a madman. Furthermore, firearms are used overwhelming used for good — as tools to save life.”
GOA was joined in this brief by its legal arm, Gun Owners Foundation (GOF), The Heller Foundation, and a number of other pro-gun organizations.
The brief can be read here.
The truth is, everyone’s rolling out the big guns on this because it’s just that important. Not just for the Second Amendment or the firearm industry, but for the First Amendment as well. Companies shouldn’t be criticized for marketing a product in such a way that it attracts buyers simply because someone might misuse the product. In fact, so far as I know, there’s no evidence the killer had even seen any of the marketing materials Remington used. He simply chose that rifle because that’s what his mother had, so he killed her and took it.
None of that is on Remington, so my hope is the courts listen to these briefs and rule accordingly.