It’s not the tool, it’s the person using it.
Connecticut’s highest court concluded Thursday that families of victims in the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School can sue the manufacturer and distributor of the weapon used in the rampage.
The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that the plaintiffs can proceed in a wrongful death claim against New York-based Remington Arms, which manufactured the semi-automatic AR-15 styled Bushmaster rifle used in the Newtown, Connecticut, massacre.
Gunman Adam Lanza, 20, acquired the weapon from his mother, then killed 20 elementary school children and six adults in the Dec. 14, 2012, shooting spree. He then shot himself and died as police arrived on the scene.
A commonsense 2005 federal law, known as the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), absolves manufacturers and sellers of firearms of liability for deaths resulting from gun violence.
In addition, a product liability lawsuit against Remington would only apply if death or injury were the result of a defect in the product’s design or manufacture.
Finally, negligent entrustment wouldn’t appear to apply, which would hold the seller liable if he knew, or should have known, that the buyer would use it in a manner that could be a danger to the public.
Instead, the court based its 4-3 ruling on a Connecticut consumer protection statute that bars wrongful marketing claims and unethical advertising of dangerous products for illegal purposes.
The plaintiffs argued that Remington should be liable because of the Bushmaster’s marketing materials, which state the rifle is “the uncompromising choice when you demand a rifle as mission-adaptable as you are.”
The marketing materials also depict the image of soldiers in battle.
The three dissenting jurists observed, however, that the drafters of the PLCAA, the federal law that protects arms makers, didn’t include this exemption in the language of the act.
Blaming the tool rather than the actor can give skewered results.
On October 31, 2017, Islamic terrorist Sayfullo Saipov rented a Ford Super Duty pickup truck and drove it through the Hudson River bike path in lower Manhattan. He targeted pedestrians and bicyclists, killing 8 and injuring 12, before he crashed the truck into a bus and was stopped by a policeman while attempting to escape on foot.
Should we hold Ford Motor Company liable? How about Home Depot, who rented the truck to Saipov?
Of course not, yet lawmakers elsewhere have tried to put an end to violence by attacking the tool used to commit the mayhem — sometimes with ridiculous results.
In the United Kingdom, where the private ownership of firearms is tightly restricted, criminals and terrorists have resorted to knife attacks. This prompted Parliament member Scott Mann to suggest regulating and registering knife sales.
“Every knife sold in the UK should have a gps tracker fitted in the handle,” Mann proposed. “It’s time we had a national database like we do with guns. If you’re carrying it around you had better have a bloody good explanation, obvious exemptions for fishing etc.”
Not content to wait for legislation, Britain's Walmart-owned Asda supermarket chain opted to take matters in its own hands. In response to a wave of knife attacks, they’ll only sell knives in sets.
“We know single knives are the most common knife products to be stolen and that is why we have chosen to remove these items from our stores,” Asda Senior Vice President Nick Jones said in a statement, according to Reuters.
Holding the person rather than the tool responsible even has Biblical roots.
In Genesis 4:1–16, Cain crept behind his brother Abel and killed him with a rock. Yet later, in the Book of Exodus when Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments, Commandment Six said, “Thou shalt not kill," not “Thou shalt license and register rocks and other weapons.”
Later still, in the New Testament, Jesus instructed his disciples at the Last Supper, according to Luke 22:36, “... he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.”
In other words, let’s not turn that “turn the other cheek” business into a suicide pact.
Connecticut is home to three prominent gunmakers: Colt, Sturm, Ruger & Company, and Mossberg & Sons. Colt has threatened to leave the state before because of its strict gun laws; Mossberg is already moving operations to gun-friendly Texas.
It’s not the gun, it’s the gunman.
Michael Dorstewitz is a retired lawyer and has been a frequent contributor to BizPac Review and Liberty Unyielding. He’s also a former U.S. Merchant Marine officer and an enthusiastic Second Amendment supporter, who can often be found honing his skills at the range. To read more of his reports - Click Here.