The Connecticut Supreme Court in a narrow ruling has reinstated a wrongful death lawsuit against Remington Arms, owner of Bushmaster, by nine families of victims killed in the Sandy Hook school shooting more than six years ago, according to NPR, and a leading national gun rights group issued a blistering reaction, calling the ruling “absurd in this case.”
Reminding the public about the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act of 2005, the Second Amendment Foundation’s Alan Gottlieb said the 4-3 ruling “strains logic, if not common sense.”
He founded SAF more than 40 years ago and currently serves as its executive vice president.
Lanza, who took his own life as police approached the school, began his killing spree at home by murdering his mother. He then took her legally-purchased firearms, including the Bushmaster semi-auto rifle, and drove to the school where he shot his way in and opened fire on youngsters and adults inside.
“This is like suing Ford or General Motors because a car they sold was stolen and used to run over a pedestrian all because the car manufacturers advertised that their car had better acceleration and performance than other vehicles,” Gottlieb observed.
The ruling spans more than 70 pages, according to published reports. It dismissed most of the original complaint but allowed the lawsuit to move forward, focusing on one issue regarding how the Bushmaster was advertised. Justice Richard Palmer, writing for the majority, said that the “regulation of advertising that threatens the public’s health, safety, and morals has long been considered a core exercise of the state’s police powers.”
“The court dismissed the bulk of the lawsuit’s allegations, but appears to have grasped at this single straw by deciding that the advertising is somehow at fault for what Adam Lanza did that day in December more than six years ago,” Gottlieb said.
The PLCAA, signed into law by then-President George W. Bush, protects firearms manufacturers from what the industry calls “junk lawsuits.” A string of such legal actions had been brought against the industry by various municipalities beginning in the late 1990s, but after costing millions of dollars in legal fees, those actions were essentially failures, except that they did cost gun makers a small fortune.
The plaintiffs contend that the rifle should never have been available for sale to the public, according to published reports. The contention is that the advertising was designed to glorify the Bushmaster rifle and enhance its appeal to younger consumers.
But Gottlieb, in his criticism of the court’s ruling, questioned that reasoning.
“Did the advertising even remotely suggest that the Bushmaster is best for murdering people,” he mused. “It appears to me like the court was looking for a way to squeak around the provisions of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. After all, the court dismissed most of the allegations, but now has decided that advertising might be at fault. That’s a stretch of credulity worthy of surgical elastic.
“There is no evidence the killer was driven by any advertising whatsoever,” he added. “This is an affront to the First Amendment as well as the Second. Even hinting that the killer was motivated in some way by an advertising message is so far out in the weeds that it may take a map for the court to find its way back.”
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