Lawsuits against US Gun Makers Surge amid Rising Mass Shootings
Story Code : 1060524
These lawsuits, reminiscent of successful cases against the automotive, opioid, and tobacco industries, are being filed in states such as New York, California, and Delaware, seeking to circumvent the near two-decade immunity previously granted to gun makers and distributors.
In Indiana, a lawsuit has been initiated by victims of the 2021 FedEx mass shooting, aiming to hold a gun manufacturer accountable for the devastating consequences caused by one of its firearms. These lawsuits, including the Indianapolis case, argue that gun manufacturers, sellers, and distributors share responsibility for gun-related crimes due to their product design, marketing, and distribution practices. There is evidence suggesting that such litigation could effectively combat gun violence, Yahoo News reported.
Similar arguments have been successfully made against industries like automotive, opioids, asbestos, and tobacco, resulting in acknowledgment of the dangers posed by their products and subsequent adoption of more responsible practices. These lawsuits revealed the extent to which company executives were aware of the harm caused by their products, leading to substantial financial penalties and eventual changes in behavior.
The path for gun litigation was effectively opened last year when Remington, the manufacturer of the AR-15 style rifle used in the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting, settled with the families of the victims for $73 million. The families alleged that Remington violated a Connecticut trade law by irresponsibly marketing the rifle to high-risk individuals through militaristic campaigns and video games. The Indianapolis lawsuit employs a similar tactic.
Philip Bangle, an attorney representing the victims of the FedEx shooting, emphasized the need for reasonable gun laws while highlighting the aim of litigation to promote responsible conduct among gun manufacturers and dealers.
Although lawsuits against gun companies have become less common, there was a notable increase in the 1990s when individuals affected by gun violence and cities witnessing its impact filed numerous cases. By 2000, over 30 cities and the state of New York were suing the gun industry, seeking damages and improved safety standards.
However, this avenue was closed with the passage of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) in 2005. The act granted gun manufacturers and sellers immunity from lawsuits related to harm resulting from criminal or unlawful misuse of guns, allowing the industry to largely act as it pleased.
Some states have started challenging the gun industry's immunity in recent years. For instance, New York passed a law in 2021 that enables legal action against firearm sellers, manufacturers, and distributors for creating a "public nuisance" endangering safety and health. Buffalo, New York, utilized this law to sue gun companies for fueling gun violence in the city. Washington and California have also passed laws facilitating lawsuits against gun makers and sellers.
Gun lobbyists are already contesting these laws, and the issue of gun company immunity could ultimately reach the US Supreme Court. However, even if the litigation is unsuccessful, it can still be beneficial. It helps raise awareness about gun violence and reframes the discussion surrounding America's gun crisis. The litigation process can also compel gun industry defendants to disclose information that regulators may not have, exposing any dubious business decisions.
Drawing a parallel with lawsuits against the opioid industry, legal action against gun companies could have a significant impact. The lawsuits against opioid companies led to substantial settlements and changes in their design, marketing, and distribution practices, addressing a nationwide public health crisis. The Giffords Law Center, founded by former congresswoman Gabby Giffords, has collaborated with shooting victims and states to enhance the ability to sue the gun industry.
Efforts to treat the gun industry like any other regulated industry, without imposing higher standards, aim to confront abuses within the sector. The objective is to shed light on the business practices and decisions made by gun companies and hold them accountable.
Although there is still a long way to go, if lawsuits against gun manufacturers achieve judgments and punitive damages, similar to those against other industries, it could mark a significant step towards safer gun use in the US. The financial incentive resulting from successful lawsuits can drive companies to change their behavior, and the exposure of business practices can bring about necessary scrutiny.
The ongoing surge of lawsuits against gun makers signifies a potential turning point in addressing America's gun crisis, as lives continue to be lost while the industry profits. These cases hold great importance in terms of securing judgments, punitive damages, and shedding light on the practices and decisions of gun companies.