Explore The NRA Universe Of Websites

Connecticut Judge Grants Immunity to Bushmaster in Case Seeking to Gut the PLCAA

Friday, October 14, 2016

Connecticut Judge Grants Immunity to Bushmaster in Case Seeking to Gut the PLCAA

On January 26, 2015, survivors of victims killed by a deranged man at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut sued the maker and distributor of the firearm he used in his crimes.

This afternoon, a judge issued a ruling in the case, Soto v. Bushmaster, that held the defendants were entitled to immunity from the suit.

The defendants in the case originally asked the court to dismiss the complaint under the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), which was enacted in 2005 to prohibit frivolous suits against firearm makers for criminal acts committed with their products by unaffiliated third parties. 

In April, the court in the Soto case issued a highly technical ruling that found the defendants had filed the wrong type of motion to invoke the protections of the PLCAA. The court at that time expressed no opinion on the merits of either the complaint or the defenses.

The defendants renewed their claim of immunity under the PLCAA, this time by filing “motions to strike” the plaintiffs’ claims.

In a lengthy decision on the merits, Connecticut Judge Barbara Bellis today granted those motions in their entirety.

Judge Bellis stated in her order: 

Congress, through the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act … has broadly prohibited lawsuits “against manufacturers, distributors, dealers, and importers of firearms … for the harm solely caused by the criminal or unlawful use of firearm products … by others when the produced functioned as designed and intended.” … The present case seeks damages for harms … that were caused solely by the criminal misuse of a weapon by [the perpetrator of the Newtown slayings]. Accordingly, this action falls squarely within the broad immunity provided by the PLCAA.  

The plaintiffs in the case tried to avoid the obvious problems the PLCAA presented for their claims by citing one of the law’s exceptions for “negligent entrustment.” This requires a plaintiff to show that the seller of the product knew, or reasonably should have known, that selling the product to a particular recipient created an unreasonable risk of harm.

In the Newtown case, none of the defendants sold or supplied a firearm directly to the ultimate perpetrator. Instead, the firearm was sold to his mother, who passed the legally required background check. The perpetrator, however, subsequently killed her and stole the firearm he then used in his crimes. 

Nevertheless, the plaintiffs claimed the defendants were negligent for entrusting any member of the general public with the Bushmaster XM-15E2S (an AR-15 variant) used in the crime. Despite the fact the firearm was perfectly legal to sell and own under federal and Connecticut law at the time and that AR-15s are America’s most popular and fastest-selling rifles, the plaintiffs insisted that “civilians are unfit to operate AR-15s.”

Had this claim succeeded, it would have not only been the first time a court essentially banned an otherwise legal class of firearms, it would have essentially gutted the protections of the PLCAA by making courts, rather than legislatures, the ultimate arbiters of what firearms are legal to sell.

Fortunately, Judge Bellis understood this was exactly the sort of claim for which the PLCAA was enacted. It would be impossible for businesses to manufacture and sell firearms to the public if courts could decide, after that fact, that even legal gun were too dangerous for any member of the public to own. 

Judge Bellis also rejected other claims under a PLCAA exception that allows for a lawsuit when a manufacturer or seller knowingly violated a state or federal statute applicable to the sale or marketing of the product, and that violation led to the harms claimed in the suit. For these claims, the plaintiffs cited the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act, but the court held they had not alleged the sorts of commercial relationships with the defendants necessary to establish a right of action under that law.

The court’s decision is a reminder of the critical importance of the PLCAA to preserving the Second Amendment in America. It should come as no surprise, then, that Hillary Clinton has promised to pursue repeal of the PLCAA if elected to the presidency.  

It should also come as no surprise that the plaintiffs have already expressed their intention to appeal today’s ruling. We will report on further developments as they occur.

TRENDING NOW
The Danger Of A “Not In My Backyard” Mentality On Shooting Ranges

News  

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Danger Of A “Not In My Backyard” Mentality On Shooting Ranges

Muscatine County, Iowa, is home to about 40,000 people, and like too many places around the country, gun owners there have no public range where they can practice or compete safely. That may be changing, ...

Court to Texas College Professors: Your Irrational Fear of Gun Owners Is Not Legally Addressable

News  

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Court to Texas College Professors: Your Irrational Fear of Gun Owners Is Not Legally Addressable

Last Thursday, a federal judge in Austin, Texas, dismissed a lawsuit by several professors who sought to block the University of Texas from implementing a state law that provides for the lawful carrying of concealed ...

California: Anti-Gun Bills to be Heard in Assembly Appropriations Committee on Wednesday, July 19

Monday, July 17, 2017

California: Anti-Gun Bills to be Heard in Assembly Appropriations Committee on Wednesday, July 19

On Wednesday, July 19, anti-gun bills SB 464 and SB 497 are scheduled to be heard in the Assembly Appropriations Committee at 9AM in State Capitol room 4202.  Assembly Bill 424 remains eligible for third ...

CMP Sales of 1911s One Step Closer With House Passage of 2018 NDAA

Friday, July 14, 2017

CMP Sales of 1911s One Step Closer With House Passage of 2018 NDAA

On Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 2810, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2018. Included in the bill is a provision that would make U.S. Army surplus 1911 .45 ACP ...

Gun Control Groups: Good at Gloating, Bad at Counting on Advancing National Reciprocity Effort

Friday, July 14, 2017

Gun Control Groups: Good at Gloating, Bad at Counting on Advancing National Reciprocity Effort

Apparently, Michael Bloomberg is good at counting money but not so good at counting votes. This week, Breitbart reported that Everytown for Gun Safety, Michael Bloomberg’s gun ban conglomerate, was claiming a “win” for congressional ...

Run, Hide, Perish – Survival Do’s and Don’ts from Across the Pond

News  

Friday, July 14, 2017

Run, Hide, Perish – Survival Do’s and Don’ts from Across the Pond

The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) advises persons at risk of harm from an active shooter to “Run, Hide, Fight” (in that order), recommending “fight” – incapacitating or “attempt[ing] to take the active ...

Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

Gun Laws  

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

CAUTION: Federal and state firearms laws are subject to frequent change. This summary is not to be considered as legal advice or a restatement of law.

One More Reason Gun Owners Should Be Celebrated

News  

Second Amendment  

Thursday, July 20, 2017

One More Reason Gun Owners Should Be Celebrated

The safety record of America’s gun owners is nothing short of stunning. 

California: DOJ Releases Proposed Regulations Regarding Ammunition Vendor Licensing

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

California: DOJ Releases Proposed Regulations Regarding Ammunition Vendor Licensing

On Friday, July 14th, the California Department of Justice, Bureau of Firearms (“DOJ”) claims to have released its anticipated proposed regulations for the issuance of ammunition vendor licenses.  Under the Administrative Procedure Act, a government ...

Commerce Subcommittee Chairman John Culberson Steers Pro-Gun Spending Bill to House Floor

Friday, July 14, 2017

Commerce Subcommittee Chairman John Culberson Steers Pro-Gun Spending Bill to House Floor

On Thursday, the House Committee on Appropriations approved the Fiscal Year 2018 Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations Bill, which funds various federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Justice, for the next year. The bill ...

MORE TRENDING +
LESS TRENDING -
NRA ILA

Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.