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
Washington State Firearm Confiscation Law Found Unconstitutional

News  

Monday, October 26, 2020

Washington State Firearm Confiscation Law Found Unconstitutional

Earlier this year, in a ruling of first impression in Washington State, the Kitsap County District Court decided that the state’s compulsory “firearm surrender” laws violated the Fourth and Fifth Amendments and the analogous provisions ...

The Incredible Shrinking Gun Control Message

News  

Monday, October 26, 2020

The Incredible Shrinking Gun Control Message

Throughout the two presidential debates and single vice-presidential debate the moderators did not ask a single question about gun control or the right to keep and bear arms. The dearth of coverage on Second Amendment issues at ...

Was Bloomberg Group Shamed Into Being (Sort of) Honest?

News  

Monday, October 26, 2020

Was Bloomberg Group Shamed Into Being (Sort of) Honest?

The gun-ban proponents at Everytown, New York Billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s personal anti-gun advocacy apparatus, have finally begun talking about guns in their political ads. In August and September, we pointed out that Everytown seemed rather focused in its ...

Anti-gun Politicians Seek to Tax Your Second Amendment Rights Into Oblivion

News  

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Anti-gun Politicians Seek to Tax Your Second Amendment Rights Into Oblivion

In 1819, Chief Justice John Marshall of the U.S. Supreme Court famously wrote:  “the power to tax involves the power to destroy ….”

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.

Your Action Needed: Urge the Department of Justice to Rein in ATF's Arbitrary Determination on "Honey Badger" Pistol!

News  

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Your Action Needed: Urge the Department of Justice to Rein in ATF's Arbitrary Determination on "Honey Badger" Pistol!

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (“ATF”) recently informed firearm manufacturer Q, LLC that, in ATF’s view, Q’s “Honey Badger” pistol with stabilizing brace is actually a short-barreled rifle and therefore subject to the National ...

The NRA Applauds Confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett

News  

Monday, October 26, 2020

The NRA Applauds Confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett

The NRA applauds President Trump and his nomination of Justice Barrett, along with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) for their leadership and service during the confirmation process.

Joe Biden Told Voters the Second Amendment DOES NOT Protect an Individual Right

News  

Monday, September 21, 2020

Joe Biden Told Voters the Second Amendment DOES NOT Protect an Individual Right

During a September 2019 “townhall” hosted by New Hampshire ABC affiliate WMUR, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden made clear that he does not believe the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms and ...

Please Urge the Department of Justice to Rein in ATF's Arbitrary Determination on "Honey Badger" Pistol

News  

Monday, October 12, 2020

Please Urge the Department of Justice to Rein in ATF's Arbitrary Determination on "Honey Badger" Pistol

As we reported last week, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (“ATF”) recently informed firearm manufacturer Q, LLC that, in ATF’s view, Q’s “Honey Badger” pistol with stabilizing brace is actually a short-barreled rifle and ...

Gun Control May be Wasting Away, But Not Because of COVID

News  

Monday, October 19, 2020

Gun Control May be Wasting Away, But Not Because of COVID

A recent article on a gun control news site laments that the COVID-19 pandemic has thwarted ballot initiatives to expand gun bans and restrictions. Initiatives in Florida, Oklahoma, Ohio and Oregon have stalled, allegedly due to the ...

MORE TRENDING +
LESS TRENDING -

More Like This From Around The NRA

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.