Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Newtown Suit Proceeds under False Pretences

Some of the families who survived the horror of the Newtown shooting are suing Bushmaster, the manufacturer of the AR-15 rifle that was used by the deranged gunman who murdered 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The complaint actually reads more like an attempt at healing than a serious legal claim. To that extent, I am sympathetic. But the strictly legal issues and theory of recovery to be gleaned from it deserve comment.

This is in the class of claims that are barred by a 2005 law, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA). Congress passed the PLCAA in response to several years’ worth of creative municipal lawsuits against the gun industry. Former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell explained in a speech to the American Bar Association that the litigation was designed to avoid consolidation and stretch the ability of gun makers to pay for legal defense in dozens of jurisdictions at once.

Many of those claims dripped with irony. One popular legal theory was that gun manufacturers—defying the profit motive—were negligently oversupplying firearms to distressed communities. The irony was that the only real evidence of product-dumping was that some of the plaintiffs had upgraded the police arsenals of their cities by selling large lots of used police guns at below-market prices. (See the Wall Street Journal report on this by Vanessa O’Connell and Paul Barrett, November 10, 1999.)

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1 comment:

Wireless.Phil said...

I watched this on the news as it went down, they said that an AR-15 rifle was found in the trunk of his car.