A drunk driver plows his Ford truck into a minivan carrying a family of six. Who is at fault for that accident? The inebriated driver or Ford Motor Company?
Common sense and legal precedent both tell us that it is the driver who is at fault, not Ford. He is the one who got behind the wheel after imbibing a rack of beer and a fifth of tequila. He is the one who imperiled the lives of the family.
Most of us understand this even though we are laymen, not lawyers. Yet, when it comes to firearms gun control advocates argue that the rules should change. For example, they believe gun companies should be held responsible when a firearm is stolen from its lawful owner by a murderous lunatic and used to kill 26 school children and staffers.
This is precisely what is behind the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence’s recent request of the Connecticut Supreme Court to challenge a judge’s ruling last year that dismissed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Remington, the manufacturer of the rifle allegedly used in the Sandy Hook School Shooting in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012.
Last October, Connecticut Superior Court Judge Barbara N. Belli explained in a 54-page memorandum that Remington is protected under the provisions of the Protection for Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), which prohibits frivolous lawsuits against firearms manufacturers and sellers for actions taken by third parties.
Brady is appealing that decision, claiming that Judge Belli failed to properly apply the Act’s “negligent entrustment exemption,” which stipulates that when a manufacturer or seller has reason to suspect a purchaser might commit a crime with a firearm, the manufacturer or seller has a responsibility to prohibit that purchase from taking place.
Sandy Hook families tried to convince the judge that, among other things, Remington “knows that civilians are unfit to operate AR-15s” but continues to sell them to the civilian market. In other words, Remington knows that at some point someone will commit a crime with one of their firearms, and they should, therefore, be subject to legal action.
“The trial court broadly and improperly interpreted the law to provide far greater protection for irresponsible gun companies than Congress ever intended,” said Jonathan Lowy, director of the Legal Action Project at the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, according to The Associated Press.
Judge Belli, in the ruling, said that the negligent entrustment didn’t apply because Remington never had any direct dealings with the shooter Adam Lanza. The rifle was sold to his mother Nancy, who purchased the rifle lawfully. It was stolen by Adam and purportedly used in the massacre.
Essentially, the crux of Brady’s argument is like saying that Ford shouldn’t sell F-150s because they’re big and therefore more dangerous than cars, and it’s only a matter of time before some drunk gets into one and slams into a family driving to Disney World. It’s ridiculous. In fact, it is so ridiculous that even former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said so while debating Hillary Clinton, who campaigned on repealing the PLCAA last election season.
“If I understand it, and correct me if I’m wrong, if you go to a gun store and you legally purchase a gun, and then three days later you go out and start killing people, is the point of this lawsuit to hold the gun shop owner or the manufacturer of that gun liable?” Sanders asked at the CNN Democratic Presidential Debate in Flint, Michigan in March of 2016.
“If that is the point, I have to tell you I disagree. I disagree because you hold people in terms of this liability thing where you hold manufacturer’s liable is if they understand that they are selling guns in an area getting into the hands of criminals, of course they should be held liable,” Sanders continued.
It’ll be interesting to see if the state Supreme Court accepts the appeal. Brady is pushing hard for it, getting various like-minded organizations and institutions to file amicus briefs. So far, The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence and CT Against Gun Violence have filed briefs in support of the new hearing as well.
We’ll keep you posted as more news develops.
(Jordan Michaels contributed to this article)