A Connecticut judge last week threw out a lawsuit brought against Remington Arms Company by the families of those killed in the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012.
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 lawsuits being filed against firearms manufacturers and sellers for actions taken by third parties.
Lawyers for the Sandy Hook families argued that Remington should be brought to court under the Act’s “negligent entrustment exemption.” This exemption 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.
Not surprisingly, the judge was unconvinced. She gave a number of reasons for her decision, but one revolved around the idea that “civilians” is too broad a social class to support a claim for negligent entrustment. Remington can’t be held liable for anything anyone in the world might do with their firearms. A gun maker could be held liable for selling a firearm to one individual they have reason to believe is dangerous. But Congress has decided that the American people are fit to operate AR-15s, so Remington cannot be held accountable for what civilians do with their firearms.
The families, of course, plan to appeal the ruling. “While the families are obviously disappointed with the judge’s decision, this is not the end of the fight,” Josh Koskoff, the attorney, said in a statement. “We will appeal this decision immediately and continue our work to help prevent the next Sandy Hook from happening.”
It’s hard to imagine they’ll get very far. Despite Hillary Clinton and the mainstream media’s best efforts to convince the country otherwise, the gun industry is not protected by a “shield law” or any other special exemption. Gun makers and sellers are subject to the same laws that regulate every other industry. Congress passed the PLCAA to protect gun makers from having to pay for wasteful, unreasonable lawsuits—not to give them special immunity when they break the law.
Ultimately, a manufacturer can’t be held liable for how someone else uses their product. Excepting certain special circumstances, that principle is at the foundation of our free market system. To subject gun makers to such suits would undermine the integrity of not just the firearms industry, but that of all other potentially dangerous products as well.