A Judge’s Ruling That Ignores The Law

Yesterday The Daily Signal posted an article about a recent lawsuit regarding the horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. The parents of the children who were killed have sued the manufacturers of the guns used in the shooting.

The article reports:

It is important to remember that the rifle used by Adam Lanza, a semi-automatic AR-15, had been legally bought by his mother, Nancy Lanza. Lanza killed her while she was sleeping before he headed to the elementary school and engaged in his killing spree. In fact, some of the families blamed Nancy Lanza for what happened, saying that she knew about her son’s mental problems and “ignored all the signs” of his “increasing instability.”

The parents subsequently filed a wrongful death lawsuit in state court against Bushmaster Firearms, Remington Arms, and a host of other firearms manufacturers. The families claim that the manufacturers acted “unethically, oppressively, immorally, and unscrupulously” in marketing the “assaultive qualities and military use of AR-15s to civilian purchasers.”

I don’t mean to be difficult, but the manufacturers had nothing to do with the events at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The article reports:

Of course, the main problem faced by the plaintiffs is that this lawsuit is absolutely barred by the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act of 2005 (PLCA). The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act was passed by Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush to stop these types of emotionally-charged lawsuits against gun manufacturers. Codified at 15 U.S.C. §7901-7903, the Congressional “Findings” specifically state that businesses that manufacture, market, distribute, import or sell firearms should not “be liable for the harm caused by those who criminally or unlawfully misuse” such weapons. Such civil liability lawsuits “may not be brought in any Federal or State court.”

The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act provides only limited exceptions to this prohibition. One exception is for lawsuits claiming a normal product liability issue, such as the harm caused by a weapon that contained a design or manufacturing defect that caused it to malfunction. Or if the manufacturer deliberately sold the gun to someone who is prohibited from owning a guns—like a felon. Or if the manufacturer encouraged a gun owner to misuse the weapon in a way that led to the harm.

What happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School was horrific. A mentally ill young man managed to get hold of a gun and went on a killing spree. Unfortunately, the way our laws are currently written, this was not a preventable crime. The laws that cover committing a person to a mental hospital have gotten complicated, and it was reported that the young man’s mother was attempting to have him hospitalized because of his mental state. Unfortunately, she was not able to complete that complex process before her son killed her. Maybe the answer is a review of our mental health policies–not suing people who are not responsible for the crime.

Moving Responsibility As Far As Possible From The Person Who Is Actually Responsible

Our culture has some very strange ideas about who is responsible for what. Somehow we have forgotten that as people we make decisions all of the time and that those decisions have consequences. Sometimes those decisions have horrible consequences, but when all is said and done, the consequences are the result of an individual’s decisions. A recent lawsuit against Freedom Group, the owners of both Bushmaster and Remington Arms, relating to the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut illustrates the fact that we no longer allow individuals to be held accountable for their actions.

Hot Air posted an article about the lawsuit today.

The article reports:

The mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School had a huge impact on the national discourse and, to some extent, the electoral battlefield, but there’s another fight dragging on as a result of it. Some of the families who lost loved ones during the attack by a deranged madman filed a lawsuit as a result. They weren’t going after the shooter’s estate or even that of his mother, but the parent company of the manufacturer who produced one of the guns used in the attack. Freedom Group, the owners of both Bushmaster and Remington Arms (among others) was their target, claiming that they knowingly sold a dangerous product which wound up being used against the children and teachers at the school. This week the company is pushing back, seeking the dismissal of the case on grounds that it is essentially baseless and conflicts with current law.

I love the way the article explains exactly how the current law is written:

The law in question here is the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which we’ve covered a number of times in the past. It’s a piece of legislation which really never should have needed to be passed, but Congress was forced into a rare bit of productive action when relentless nuisance suits by anti-gun rights groups threatened to bankrupt smaller members of the industry. It essentially says that the manufacturer or retailer can’t be held liable for the production, distribution and sale of safely designed, properly functioning, wholly legal products simply because they are put to an illegal use by criminals or the insane. It’s no different than saying you can’t sue the manufacturer of a properly designed and operational toaster just because your angry girlfriend throws it in the bathtub with you. (The italics are mine.)

You can argue that the guns were not properly secured and got into the hands of a dangerous person, but that is not the fault of the manufacturing company. Had there been a person in the school with a gun manufactured by the same company, there would have been fewer lives lost–does that mean that the product is no longer dangerous, but a safety item?

The article concludes:

It’s easy to understand the sorrow and anger felt by the Sandy Hook families, just as it’s obvious how and why anti-Second Amendment groups would seek to use them as pawns to further their cause. None of that changes the facts on the ground, however. This was an ill considered venture to begin with and we’re in a lot of trouble as a nation if the courts manage to bend reality enough to allow them to prevail.

 

Civil Disobedience In Connecticut

On Monday the Hartford Courant posted an article about the progress in Connecticut’s attempt to register all military-style rifles with state police by December 31. The effort has not gone well.

The article reports:

By the end of 2013, state police had received 47,916 applications for assault weapons certificates, Lt. Paul Vance said. An additional 2,100 that were incomplete could still come in.

That 50,000 figure could be as little as 15 percent of the rifles classified as assault weapons owned by Connecticut residents, according to estimates by people in the industry, including the Newtown-based National Shooting Sports Foundation. No one has anything close to definitive figures, but the most conservative estimates place the number of unregistered assault weapons well above 50,000, and perhaps as high as 350,000.

This law instantly created between 20,000 and 100,000 new criminals–people who did not register their rifles. The article reminds us, “By owning unregistered guns defined as assault weapons, all of them are committing Class D felonies.”

The article reports:

The law was adopted after the December 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Its main provision was a dramatic expansion of guns classified as assault weapons banned for sale in the state. The ban now includes any semiautomatic firearm — that is, one that reloads a round after each pull of the trigger — if it has even a single military-style characteristic, such as a pistol grip.

Any semiautomatic firearm banned for sale could remain legal if its owner registered it by Dec. 31. Those that were made before the state’s first assault rifle law in 1993, and were not deemed to be assault weapons in that law, do not have to be registered.

The AR-15, a type of rifle, not a brand, is among those that must be registered and represents 50 percent to 60 percent of all rifle sales in the United States in recent years, federal figures show.

Sorting out the number of potential new felons is a guessing game. State police have not added up the total number of people who registered the 50,000 firearms, Vance said. So even if we knew the number of illegal guns in the state, we’d have a hard time knowing how many owners they had.

As logical as gun registration may seem to lawmakers, its history is not a positive one. Historically gun registration has been the prelude to a seizure of guns by a tyrannical government. An unarmed population is much more easily controlled than an armed population. There is also the small matter of the Second Amendment to the U. S. Constitution. It will be interesting to see of Connecticut attempts to enforce its new gun registration law.

I really don’t understand a lot about the concept of assault rifles, but I do wonder about a statement in the Hartford Courant article. The article states that this law was passed in response to what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School. I totally agree that what happened at Sandy Hook was a terrible tragedy, but is there anything in this law that is actually related to that event or that would have prevented that event?

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One Answer To School Shootings

Gun control hasn’t worked real well. Most of the mass shootings that have occurred in this country in recent years have been in gun–free zones. For some reason, gun-free signs don’t seem to stop criminals. The theater in Colorado that was shot up was chosen because it was gun-free–the killer know that he would not meet opposition there. The shooting at Arapahoe High School recently ended quickly because there was someone there who had a gun and knew how to use it.

Yesterday Breitbart.com posted the story:

On December 15th Breitbart News reported that an armed guard saved students’ lives when Karl Halverson Pierson began firing his shotgun inside Arapahoe High School.

As more details emerge, it has become evident that the guard — a county deputy resource officer — did this by running toward the shooter in a way that ended the entire incident in 80 seconds.

…On the way into the library the officer directed students to “get down” and let everyone know he was a “county deputy sheriff.”

Said Robinson, “We know for a fact that the shooter knew that the deputy was in the immediate area and while the deputy was containing the shooter, the shooter took his own life.”  

This incident lasted 80 seconds. At Sandy Hook Elementary, where there was no armed guard, Adam Lanza had approximately four unimpeded minutes to carry out his evil intent.

I hate the idea that it is necessary to have armed people in our schools. However, I hate the idea of innocent young people being shot for no reason even more. I don’t like this solution, but I haven’t seen a better one that is as successful.

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Don’t Let The Facts Of A Tragedy Get In The Way Of Making A Political Point

What in the world happened to fact checking in the media reporting of the tragedy in Connecticut? It seems as if almost everything reported as the tragedy unfolded on Friday was wrong. It would be very nice if the media would check the facts before reporting them. Silence would be better than misinformation. Some of the erroneous reporting has been that the shooter‘s mother was a teacher at the school–that has been proven false, that the shooter entered the school by being buzzed in because he was known–it is now known that he entered by breaking a window, and I am sure there is other misinformation that I am unaware of.

The most egregious misreporting has been related to the weapons used in the shooting. Breitbart.com reported today that the shooter did not use automatic weapons–one of the weapons used was an assault rifle, but it was not an automatic weapon.

The article reports:

Although only semi-automatic, it is important to note that Lanza broke Connecticut laws by possessing the handguns, because you have to have a permit to own and carry a handgun in Connecticut. The paperwork on both handguns was in his mother’s name, which means the guns weren’t even his to possess and he had no permit carry (he was not legally eligible for a permit to carry because he was only 20 — you have to be 21 to get that permit).

Regarding the AR-15 it is what politicians commonly call an “assault rifle” (although the “AR” does not stand for that). It has a completely different set of Connecticut laws by which its owner must abide, many of which Lanza broke just by taking the gun into his possession, transporting it to a school, and transporting it in a way other than is legally stipulated for the transport of an assault rifle in Connecticut.

It was not legal for the shooter to have these weapons. I question the wisdom of his mother in having these weapons when she knew that her son had mental issues, but they were legally her weapons. Her son had no right to them, and she should have taken extra precautions to limit his access to these weapons. There are many combination lock weapons storage safes available. The problem was not the guns–it was the fact that a mentally unstable person was able to get his hands on them.

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