February 22, 2022
By David Codrea
“The families of five children and four adults killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting have reached a $73 million settlement with the now-bankrupt gun manufacturer Remington and its four insurers,” CNN reports. “The settlement comes more than seven years after the families filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Remington, the manufacturer of the Bushmaster AR-15-style rifle used in the massacre that left 20 children and six adults dead in Newtown, Connecticut.”
The case was initially considered by many to be an unwinnable harassment action. A person familiar with the law might well ask how this came to be. Learning more, they might ask why, especially since Remington Outdoor was, per a 2020 report from The Wall Street Journal, “broken up and sold after a multiday bankruptcy auction, in which seven different buyers won the bidding for parcels of the company’s weapons and ammunition holdings. Sales of Remington’s ammunition- and weapons-manufacturing business, the Remington brand and others will bring in at least $155 million to be applied against the company’s debts.”
What happened to the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, duly enacted and signed into law, meant to stop agenda-driven “lawfare” from driving gun manufacturers and dealers into Remington-style bankruptcy? Actually, the end goal is to make it too expensive to make and sell guns to anyone but law enforcement and the military, imposed by the same people who insist that no one is talking about taking your guns.
The long title for PLCAA is “An Act to prohibit civil liability actions from being brought or continued against manufacturers, distributors, dealers, or importers of firearms or ammunition for damages, injunctive or other relief resulting from the misuse of their products by others.” It did not, nor was it ever intended to shield manufacturers from responsibility for defective products, breach of contract, criminal misconduct, and negligence if knowingly providing a gun to someone intending to us it in a crime.
Compare that to what Joe Biden claims when he issues absurd, lying public proclamations like “This is the only outfit that is exempt from being sued... Most people don’t realize, the only industry in America, billion-dollar industry, that can’t be sued, exempt from being sued, are gun manufacturers.” That the media doesn’t call him on that (all the while spreading COVID “vaccine” propaganda from companies that really can’t be sued), should tell us all we need to know about the state of “unbiased” journalism.
In fact, PLCAA, which is still intact with its provisions unaffected by the surrender, “saved” Remington at the state Superior Court level, which threw the case out, per a Newstimes timeline. That was appealed to the Connecticut Supreme Court, which gave preferential credence to the state’s deceptive trade practices law, despite the fact that no evidence, let alone proof existed to demonstrate that the monster who murdered his mother, stole her gun, and then went on to slaughter defenseless children in a “gun-free” school, was influenced by or even aware of ads with taglines like “Consider Your Man Card Reissued.”
When escalated for resolution, the United State Supreme Court did what it seems to do best: Nothing. By refusing to hear the appeal, the case could then proceed to a jury trial. And the lawyers and insurers decided—for reasons we can only speculate on until such time as they issue a statement — that they didn’t want to risk that, leading to the question of “Why not?”
Unfortunately, they’d already signaled their weakness last July, when they offered $33M to the plaintiffs who, bankrolled by AstroTurfers with an agenda, smelled the fear and moved in for the kill. Just like in nature.
What they (and their lawyers!) will actually end up with remains to be seen. Per The New York Times, filed documents “did not divulge details of the settlement, including the amount the families would receive,” which could mean prior claims against Remington in its bankruptcy from creditors and taxing agencies will factor in. But there’s one other part of the settlement that few are talking about but will be used in future actions by other plaintiffs against other companies. That’s, from a salivating follow-up Times article, titled “A Blueprint for Suing Gun Makers Emerges,” that anticipates “circumventing PLCAA. “Remington’s obligation in the settlement to release thousands of pages of internal company documents that ... could reveal intent to aggressively market firearms to troubled young men like the one responsible for the 2012 shooting,” the report notes.
They’ve found a formula that worked in one case. Why not others?
Not so fast, some in the gun industry caution. The Remington settlement was made by insurers and lawyers, not by gun makers, who would fight harder and not give in so easily.
Probably. But that doesn’t mean the billionaire-financed citizen disarmament lobby won’t try, especially in states where they’re already set up to test the Connecticut strategy.
“Our [amicus brief] included a 50-state survey of relevant unfair trade practice laws, and concluded that of the fourteen states with laws similar to Connecticut’s, none have required a ‘business relationship,’ and six have affirmatively found that no business relationship is required for an injured plaintiff to have standing,” Giffords Law Center crows. They’re ready for Round Two.
Cheering them on is the White House, with a triumphant Sandy Hook statement saying in part: “They have demonstrated that state and city consumer protection laws – like Connecticut’s Unfair Trade Practices Act – provide an opportunity to hold gun manufacturers and dealers accountable for wrongdoing despite the persistence of the federal immunity shield for these companies. As I have repeatedly called for, Congress must repeal the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act so we can fully hold gun manufacturers and dealers accountable. But, in the meantime, I will continue to urge state and local lawmakers, lawyers, and survivors of gun violence to pursue efforts to replicate the success of the Sandy Hook families. Together, we can deliver a clear message to gun manufacturers and dealers...”
“Dealers.” How many of those, with FFLs having their life savings tied up in a business, have the resources to hold out?
This is a mess. The potential damage is incalculable. The goal is unmasked and totalitarian. The threat is existential.
What approach will work best addressing this remains to be seen, but for now, a few generalities in the form of questions come to mind: Will gun companies move operations from “grabber” states and adopt the Barrett approach of refusing to deal with their enforcement agencies? Will Republicans succeed in not blowing the midterms, and if they do, will they stop with the ridiculous compromising and start acting like the “staunch defenders of the Second Amendment” they claim to be? Will our “gun rights” and trade organizations develop workable plans for dealing with “unfair practices” tactics?
And how many gun owners will contribute more to the cause than an occasional anonymous “Molon Labe!” and “Let’s go Brandon” comment in an internet forum?
Following the submission of this article, the Associated Press reported California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a bill introduced in the state assembly to allow "private citizens in his state [to] sue gun makers to stop them from selling assault weapons just as Texas lets its residents sue abortion providers to stop the procedures, then essentially dared the U.S. Supreme Court to treat both issues the same."
"Gun manufacturers and distributors are largely shielded from legal liability through the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which stipulates they can’t be sued for acts of violence committed using their firearms," Forbes elaborated. "[State Attorney General Rob] Bonta’s office noted ... the federal law does allow for civil lawsuits if the gun maker or dealer 'knowingly violates a state law regulating the sale or marketing of the product' which results in direct harm to the person bringing the lawsuit, and AB 1594 'would create a clear path' to bring litigation under that exception. The legislation is similar to a separate bill passed in New York last year before Texas’ SB 8 took effect, which allows civil lawsuits to be brought against gun industry members if they don’t have 'reasonable controls' to stop the firearms from being used or sold illegally."