Lawsuits are often filed not to right wrongs but to punish people who don’t conform in some way. This is typically called “lawfare” and groups like Everytown are big proponents of it. They like to try and sue companies not because the companies did anything actually wrong, but because they’re businesses that are involved in the firearm business.
The goal is usually just to try and make it too costly for them to stay in business, the idea likely being that you don’t need to repeal the Second Amendment if there are no gun companies willing to sell firearms to private parties.
But these lawsuits have limits or did prior to federal law prohibiting them. Back then, they were filed on behalf of victims or their families.
Now, Everytown is trying something different.
Mike Bloomberg-affiliated Everytown for Gun Safety filed a lawsuit Tuesday on behalf of 16 people who witnessed the May 14, 2022, shooting in which an attacker took the lives of ten people in a Buffalo, New York, grocery store.
NBC News noted that the lawsuit alleges the 16 witnesses — some of whom were Tops employees, others of whom were customers — “survived the racist attack but had to endure moments of terror that left lasting effects, such as nightmares, trouble sleeping, anxiety and paranoia.”
The lawsuit names social media platforms believed to have been vehicles for radicalizing the attacker, as well as “RMA Armament, a body armor manufacturer, and Vintage Firearms LLC, a gun retailer.”
Now, Everytown has Michael Bloomberg’s money to play with, so it’s not like they don’t have deep pockets. Even so, I honestly don’t see how this proceeds in anything approaching a fair court.
Granted, there’s no guarantee the court will be fair, but that just leaves it open to appeal.
See, I don’t doubt that those who witnessed the attack are suffering from psychological trauma. It had to be beyond awful to witness and that kind of thing can definitely scar people.
Yet the social media platforms are protected by Section 230 and the gun store is protected by the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. If anyone lacks that protection, it’s the body armor manufacturer, but even there it’s hard to see how they’re remotely responsible for what happened.
But winning isn’t likely the goal here. It’s in making these entities pay to defend themselves, thus making it harder for them to make a profit.
The process is the punishment.
Yet these lawsuits are why laws like the PLCAA exist in the first place.
No one has shown that the gun store did anything illegal in selling that firearm. No one has shown they somehow should have known what the killer had planned. There’s no way in the world they could have anticipated what happened.
But Everytown thinks they should pay for something that was well beyond their control.
The same is true of the body armor manufacturer. Literally no one has alleged they should have anticipated what that particular customer was up to or that they somehow did anything illegal in selling that armor to a paying customer.
And yet, somehow, they’re supposed to pay out as if they’re responsible for the shooting.
Here in this country, we’ve got a big problem with people not wanting to blame the killer for murders carried out with a firearm. They want to blame the gun, the gun maker, the gun store, literally anyone but the killer, it seems, and that needs to end.
Buffalo was horrific and yes, it certainly was a racist attack on black Americans. That should never be tolerated or accepted.
But the onus on it lies with the killer, not the people engaged in lawful commerce.