City leaders in Baltimore are looking to sue gun makers for the city’s escalating violence.
Solicitor Andre Davis said Tuesday that the firearms industry should be held accountable for its role in the over 300 homicides the city witnessed so far this year.
Davis said he is closely watching the outcome of a lawsuit brought by Sandy Hook families against the Remington Arms Co., in which the families allege the gun maker is responsible, in part, for the 2012 Newtown tragedy that left 26 dead including 20 school children.
At the center of the case is a 2005 federal law known as the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) that essentially protects gun makers from being held liable for the acts of armed criminals, thugs, and spree killers.
Last week, the Supreme Court declined to dismiss the lawsuit thus allowing the case to move forward. If the Sandy Hook plaintiffs are successful in breaching the PLCCA, it would open the floodgates for a wave of wrongful death suits from cities around the country.
“That decision by the court of appeals a couple of weeks ago was a breakthrough because congress has created immunity for these gun manufacturers that, up until now, has been impenetrable and this recent decision is the first small crack in the wall and we will continue to monitor it,” Solicitor Davis said.
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It doesn’t seem right (nor is it right) that Remington should be held liable for the acts of a madman, nor does it seem right (nor is it right) that the gun industry should be held responsible for the rampant gang violence in Baltimore. But that is precisely what will happen if that “crack” in the PLCCA doesn’t get filled by the courts.
The Connecticut Supreme Court in March ruled that Remington cannot be sued for simply selling the rifle reportedly used in the attack but it can be sued for its questionable marketing practices (the supposed “crack”).
“Congress did not intend to immunize firearms suppliers who engage in truly unethical and irresponsible marketing practices promoting criminal conduct,” the court said. “It falls to a jury to decide whether the promotional schemes alleged in the present case rise to the level of illegal trade practices and whether fault for the tragedy can be laid at their feet.”
Of course, this is “absurd,” as Second Amendment Foundation Founder Alan Gottlieb told GunsAmerica in an email.
“Did the advertising even remotely suggest that the Bushmaster is best for murdering people?” he added. “That’s a stretch of credulity worthy of surgical elastic.”
But there is a chance that these families win the suit. Which would, as mentioned, create a precedent whereby the ads of every gun maker would be cited as a reason why an act of violence was perpetrated. It wouldn’t be the criminal’s fault, it would be the gun maker’s fault. Lawsuits would pile up, insurance premiums would skyrocket and the gun industry would go belly up.
Solicitor Davis got one thing right. We will all be watching to see what happens.