Gun Maker, FFL Included in School Shooting Victims Lawsuit


Gun Maker, FFL Included in School Shooting Victims Lawsuit

The Sun Florida Sentinel reported recently that the families of 2 of the shooting victims from a deadly shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida are suing both the gun manufacturer (Smith & Wesson, now American Outdoor Brand – AOB) and the Federal Firearms Licensee (Sunrise Tactical Supply) who sold the firearm, stating that they should be held responsible for the actions of the shooter. This isn’t the first time that a firearms manufacturer has been taken to court over the actions of a deranged individual, nor will it be the last.

Parkland Shooting Victims (2018):

According to a lawsuit filed in Broward County, the victims’ families “seek to hold defendants legally responsible for their complicity in the entirely foreseeable, deadly use of the assault-style weapons that they place on the market“. However:

  • A Florida law enacted in 2001 prevents government agencies from filing this type of litigation, but it doesn’t seem to have stopped anyone from filing the lawsuit anyway.
  • Also involved in legal woes due to similar lawsuits are the school resource officer who allegedly refused to enter the school, Nicholas Cruz (the shooter), as well as the family who took in Cruz after his mother passed away.
  • Nicholas Cruz LEGALLY purchased the MP-15 a year before taking the lives of 17 people on Valentine’s Day earlier this year.

These types of lawsuits are frivolous in nature and don’t result in any real financial recourse for anyone involved (with the exception of the attorneys who file them).

Aurora, Colorado Movie Theater Shooting (2012):

Case in point – after the shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado in 2012, the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence filed a lawsuit against Lucky Gunner (as, Sportsman’s Guide and several others for providing the ammunition and other supplies that the shooter used.

Judge Richard P. Mastch found the lawsuit to be propaganda in nature and dismissed it. But not before the families convinced by the Brady Center to file the lawsuit were forced into bankruptcy after they were left holding the bag. Judge Mastch said of the case:

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.

The Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, Colorado
The Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, Colorado

Sandy Hook (2012) and the DC Sniper (2002):

Remington (Bushmaster) was sued after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting from December, 2012 as well as in the “DC Sniper” incidents from 2002. According to Forbes, the ONLY reason that the “Sniper” suit was settled and a financial sum awarded to victims’ families was because the FFL who sold the firearm acted negligently. The Sandy Hook case was also originally dismissed for frivolity, but in November, 2017 was taken before the Connecticut Supreme Court and is still ongoing.

Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut
Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut

Negligent entrustment:

The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms act passed by Congress in 2005 and signed into law by President GW Bush prohibits lawsuits against firearms manufacturers when the product created is used in a method other than it’s original intended purpose. (15 U.S.C. § 7901 – U.S. Code – Unannotated Title 15. Commerce and Trade § 7901. Findings; Purposes).

The reason that the lawsuits against gun manufacturers were filed, and the term that lawyers in the Parkland, Florida as well as Sandy Hook shootings are banking on is called “negligent entrustment“. It’s the “loophole” created by the Commerce in Arms Act and is typically used in lawsuits involving automobiles.

However, in the case of the Sandy Hook lawsuit, the attorneys are relying on a case that dates back to a 1977 case where a Michigan Supreme Court reversed a ruling that Chemtoy Corporation, the maker of “high velocity slingshots” was liable for the accidental discharge and subsequent injury of a boy being shot in the eye. It’s possible that the Parkland lawyers will use the same argument in their trial as well.

Not the exact same slingshot distributed by Chemtoy fo rthe 1977 lawsuit, but close.
Not the exact same slingshot distributed by Chemtoy fo rthe 1977 lawsuit, but close.

In Conclusion:

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an attorney (nor do I play one on TV). I know that the court system has to allow the law suits to be filed in order to dismiss them. That’s how our legal system works.

When organizations like the Brady Center or attorneys with ulterior motives use the tragedies committed by individuals with mental illness for financial gain, surely there has to be some legal repercussion for gun manufacturers and gun stores. This isn’t just “the price of doing business in the firearms industry”.

Lawsuits like the ones named above will NOT bring the victims back. They won’t make the parents sleep any better at night. They cost the American taxpayer money (judges’ salaries, etc). They cost the gun manufacturer money. They cost the Federal Firearms Licensed gun store money…all of which leads back again to the cost on the American tax payer. When is it enough? How do we as firearms owners (and in my case, FFL/SOT) fight back without stooping to their level?

In the litigious society we live in, I realize there are no immediate answers to these questions. However, I also think that someone needs to start asking them and asking them loudly.

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Rachel is a 4-time Best Selling Author and avid shooter. She and her husband own a firearms showroom and machine shop in East Tennessee.

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