Benjamin Wheeler was six when he died in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. His parents, David and Francine, are now plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Remington, the maker of the gun used in the mass shooting.
Since the shooting, David had spoken in front of state legislators, petitioned Congress and sat with his wife while she shared the microphone with then-President Obama. She pleaded for revisions to the country’s gun laws.
The families of the victims are listening as attorneys lay out in Connecticut’s Supreme Court their reasoning that companies manufacturing and selling military-style weapons should bear responsibility.
It’s not just Connecticut residents that are watching the litigation, people across the border in New York are interested as well.
A Novel Approach
The attorneys are using a novel strategy which could puncture the shield created by federal law protecting gun companies from litigation. The same rule has stymied numerous lawsuits after weapons were used to commit crimes.
Supporters of gun law reform think if the courts clear the path for a jury trial, gun companies’ internal communications would survive. Revealing internal communications would provide a damaging glimpse into the gun industry and how it functions. A legal roadmap for survivors and relatives of gun victims in subsequent mass shootings could be charted as well.
Litigation means merely the process of taking legal action. Nothing more. Nothing less.
So far federal law forbids survivors or relatives of deaths by a gun from suing the gun manufacturer. In serving the families of individuals killed in Newtown, Wheeler said, “It doesn’t make any sense at all these products being free from liability.”Mass shootings in the nation have typically been attended by a blizzard of legal work, but suits made against gun makers have failed because of the high bar put in place by Congress.
In 2015, after massive spending by the gun lobby, Congress enacted the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. The act distinctly limited lawsuits against gun manufacturers and sellers and granted protection from liability when a weapon is employed in a crime.
The law does have a loophole allowing lawsuits for sales and marketing which violate state or federal laws.
Negligent entrustment occurs when a gun is irresponsibly provided or sold to somebody who poses an unusual danger of misusing it. Although negligent entrustment has been used with success in suits against gun dealers, the current Newtown shooting lawsuit is the initial time the scope has broadened to include a weapon’s manufacturer.
Battlefield Weapon In Civilian Hands
The current litigation between heard by the Supreme Court argues since the AR15 was produced for America’s military as a battlefield-grade weapon, gun corporations should never entrust the firearms to unqualified and unskilled civilians.
While in a strictly legal sense, the case’s outcome would establish little precedent beyond Connecticut, experts in New York are carefully watching the situation unfold.
Despite gun lovers attempting to use Chicago as a prop to bolster claims that gun control laws do nothing to limit gun violence, the truth is quite the opposite.
New York has sterner gun laws than Chicago, and The Big Apple’s murder figures are dropping to historic lows.
Those details don’t fit the pro-gun tale. To use The Empire State as a talking point, gun lovers would have to agree that rigorous gun laws have an impact on homicide rates.