NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Victims File Lawsuit against Gun Manufacturer

December 30, 2014

In 2012, crazed gunman Adam Lanza used an AR-15 to kill 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The families of nine of those victims have now filed a lawsuit against makers and sellers of the AR-15.

Pat Eaton-Robb and Dave Collins of the Associated Press report that a 2005 gun law protects manufacturers from lawsuits when their products are used by criminals. However, there is an exception: when someone should know that a weapon would likely be used in a way that could injure others, the person can be subject to suit for "negligent entrustment." But the Wall Street Journal reports that negligent entrustment generally involves one individual entrusting another with something (such as a person loaning their car to a drunk person), not the broader idea of a manufacturer or seller making a gun available to the public.

Steve Chapman, writing at Reason.com, notes that the plaintiffs focus on the AR-15's ability to shoot quickly and its high-capacity magazine. But Chapman says that countless other firearms have those same characteristics -- if this particular AR-15 lawsuit could succeed on a negligent entrustment theory, he contends other suits could force most guns out of the market. Moreover, he writes that "the vast majority of AR-15s have not been misused," rather they have been sold to individuals for entirely lawful uses. This is why Congress passed the 2005 law protecting gun manufacturers from liability, says Chapman. The idea of holding firearm companies responsible for crimes committed with guns, he says, "was the equivalent of suing Budweiser for alcohol-fueled violence or General Motors for traffic fatalities." 

Source: Pat Eaton-Robb and Dave Collins, "Families of Newtown victims sue rifle manufacturer," Associated Press, December 15, 2014; Steve Chapman, "The Newtown Families' Lawsuit Ignores Fact That Vast Majority of AR-15s Are Used Responsibly," Reason.com, December 18, 2014. 

 

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