On Friday, October 14, Connecticut Superior Court Judge Barbara N. Bellis dismissed a lawsuit brought by nine surviving family members of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary school massacre against the gun company who manufactured the gun used by Adam Lanza to carry out the shooting. The lawsuit alleged both the manufacturers of the military assault rifle and certain sellers of the deadly weapon were negligent for having sold the AR-15 to untrained civilians. Judge Bellis had earlier denied a dismissal of the case based on jurisdictional issues, stating a motion to strike would have been more appropriate than the question of “legal sufficiency,” as first argued by representatives for Remington Arms Co. and the other defendants named in the case. However, this time around, the judge sided with the companies, citing the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act passed in 2005. The horrific 2012 shooting left 26 dead, 20 of whom were children as young as five.
In a 54-page memo regarding her decision, Bellis wrote in part, “To extend the theory of negligent entrustment to the class of nonmilitary, non police civilians—the general public—would imply that the general public lacks the ordinary prudence necessary to handle an object that Congress regards as appropriate for sale to the general public. This the court is unwilling to do.” Under the Arms Act, gun manufacturers and sellers are protected against being held liable if and when their merchandise is used during a violent crime unless the seller is aware, or should be aware, of the buyer’s intent to use the weapon to cause irreparable harm to another. One can’t help but wonder what need ordinary citizens have for a military-grade weapon if their intent is not to maim, particularly if the individual purchasing the item has a history of mental illness and sociopathic behavior. These types of weapons are certainly not needed to protect one’s homestead and would annihilate any animal while hunting; particularly in the case of humans hunting humans, which was undeniably the motive in the Sandy Hook incident.
Lawyers for the families argued average citizens are not equipped to handle guns “designed to be used in combat to assault and kill enemies of war.” As expected, noted gun advocates were extremely disappointed after learning of Bellis’s decision, with Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence’s Jonathan E. Lowy, who serves as a director for the organization, stating it “shows the evils of this federal law that gives special privileges to irresponsible gun companies that no one else in society has. It makes victims, including those in the Sandy Hook massacre, into second-class citizens.”
Attorneys on both sides of the case have commented, with attorney James B. Vogts, one of the representatives for Remington Arms Co., expressing his approval over the ruling to a reporter via phone stating, “Remington is pleased with the court’s decision today to strike the plaintiff’s complaint.” A lawyer representing the families of the victims, however, made it clear the case is not over, indicating they plan to appeal the decision. Josh Koskoff said in a statement, “While the families are obviously disappointed with the judge’s decision, this is not the end of the fight. We will appeal this decision immediately and continue our work to help prevent the next Sandy Hook from happening.”
It’s important to remember those who advocate stricter gun laws are not looking to repeal the Second Amendment, which provides citizens with the right to bear arms. Nobody is coming for your guns, so the argument gun control laws infringe on that right falls flat. There are plenty of responsible gun owners who follow the law and they have every right to retain that status. What’s hard to understand is the opposition to ensuring all gun owners, manufacturers and sellers do the same.