January 2, 2015: On December 14, 2012, Adam Lanza murdered twenty-six people and injured an additional six people at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. Representatives of the estates of eight of the people he killed, and one person who was injured, filed a lawsuit in the Connecticut Superior Court on December 13, 2014. Rather than suing Adam Lanza’s estate, however, they filed suit against the manufacturer, wholesale distributor and retail dealer who sold the Bushmaster XM15-E2S Modern Sporting Rifle that he used in the shooting.
According to the complaint, the Modern Sporting Rifle at issue had been legally sold to Nancy Lanza in March of 2010. More than two years later, Adam Lanza stole it after murdering Nancy Lanza, his own mother. The complaint does not allege any wrongdoing by the defendants, but rather seeks to hold them liable simply because they legally manufacture and sell Modern Sporting Rifles to civilians, while plaintiffs believe their sale should be restricted to the military and law enforcement agencies.
The complaint specifically alleges that both the wholesale distributor and retail dealer who sold the Modern Sporting Rifle at issue are “qualified product sellers” within the meaning of 15 U.S.C. § 7903(6). This citation is significant because it is the definition of “seller” from the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, a federal law enacted on October 26, 2005 that should result in the dismissal of plaintiffs’ complaint.
The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act states that a “qualified civil liability action,” which it defines as a:
civil action . . . brought by any person against a [federally licensed] manufacturer or seller of a [firearm that has been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce] . . . for damages, punitive damages, injunctive or declaratory relief, abatement, restitution, fines, or penalties or other relief resulting from the criminal or unlawful misuse of a qualified product by the person or a third party. . . .
“may not be brought in any Federal or State Court.” Although there are six limited exceptions to the definition of a qualified civil liability action that are not barred by the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, the allegations in the complaint do not satisfy any of them.
The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act has survived numerous challenges to its constitutionality in the almost decade long period in which it has been in effect, and has served as the basis for the dismissal of several similar lawsuits in which plaintiffs attempted to blame members of the firearms industry for the intentional actions of criminals, such as Adam Lanza.
Renzulli Law Firm, LLP has represented manufacturers, wholesale distributors, and retail dealers in more cases involving the Protection of Commerce in Arms Act as a defense than any other firm, including the actions brought by the City of New York, the City of Gary Indiana, and the District of Columbia, as well as numerous cases brought by private plaintiffs. For more information on the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, please contact John F. Renzulli.