Explainer: Can US gunmakers be liable for mass shooting?

WASHINGTON: An 18-year-old gunman burst into a Texas Elementary School on Tuesday and killed 19 children and two teachers, sparking a debate in the United States about gun control and potential liability for gun manufacturers.
Here are attempts to use the courts to hold manufacturers accountable for mass shootings.
US gun companies are generally protected from lawsuits
Since 2005, the Lawful Trade in Firearms Protection Act (PLCAA) has provided near-comprehensive immunity to firearm manufacturers and dealers from liability for crimes committed with firearms. their products. The legislation was passed after several cities filed lawsuits aimed at holding companies accountable for gun violence.
Is there an exception?
Right. The PLCAA has several provisions that allow a company to be sued, including claims that a company knowingly violated laws related to the marketing of products related to the shooting.
The Connecticut Supreme Court said in 2019 that federal law allows some families of the victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting to sue. The families have sued Remington for violating state marketing laws by allegedly promoting Bushmaster rifles for criminal use.
Remington, which has twice filed for bankruptcy in the case, in February agreed to pay the families $73 million, the first settlement of its kind.
Also in 2019, the Indiana Court of Appeals said the PLCAA did not prevent the city of Gary from pursuing a 1999 lawsuit against gun manufacturers under the state’s public nuisance law. Nuisance laws can be used to hold defendants liable for damage caused to the public interest, such as public safety, and the city alleges the manufacturers were aware of the sell handguns illegally and do not stop them.
However, two federal appeals courts have ruled that public nuisance lawsuits are prohibited by the PLCAA because they do not apply to the sale or marketing of firearms.
Other legal cases
Following the Connecticut Supreme Court ruling, other cases have been brought forward that are underway through the courts, seeking to gain immunity in the PLCAA.
Victims of a 2019 batch shooting at a California synagogue sued Smith & Wesson, saying the company negligently marketed the rife AR-15 style used by the shooter. Last year, a state court judge dismissed the company’s argument that the lawsuit was barred under the PLCAA.
Meanwhile, the Texas Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that an online ammunition seller,, is not protected by the PLCAA from a lawsuit on behalf of the victims of the five shootings. 2018 at a high school in Santa Fe, Texas, USA. The company is accused of knowingly breaking a law that makes it illegal to sell ammunition to minors.
Mexico last year sued Smith & Wesson Brands Inc and Sturm, Ruger & Co and other makers of firearms for weapons flooding across the border from the United States. The lawsuit accuses the companies of designing, marketing and distributing military-style assault weapons in ways they know will arm drug cartels and fuel murders and kidnappings.
The companies have argued that they cannot be held responsible for crimes in Mexico stemming from the legal sale of their products in the United States.
The judge overseeing the case in Boston questioned whether allowing the case to continue could weaken the PLCAA.
Recent legislative action
In July, the governor of New York signed into law a measure that allows gun sellers, manufacturers, and distributors to be sued by states, cities or individuals for causing public nuisance.
A US judge on Wednesday ruled against the firearms industry that sued to block the law, arguing that it was banned by the PLCAA.
On Tuesday, California senators passed a bill hours after the Texas shootings that would allow private citizens to sue anyone who manufactures, distributes, transports, imports, or sells a firearm cannons and ghost guns cannot be traced.
The bill, backed by Governor Gavin Newsom, builds on Texas’ anti-abortion “warning” laws meant to oppose conflicting federal laws. It will now be reviewed by the state parliament.
Lawsuits challenging gun restrictions
Gun rights advocates have also used the courts to challenge firearms restrictions, and the US Supreme Court is poised to rule a New York off-limits case on gun possession. hidden in public.
The conservative court appeared at the arguments in November ready to introduce the law.
Other lawsuits against the restrictions include lawsuits against assault-style weapons bans in California and Maryland, lawsuits that opponents say violate the constitutional right to arms.

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