There is something very wrong in our legal system. In our litigious society, protections for corporations and business from frivolous lawsuits are keeping real victims from getting proper restitution for their suffering. A week ago, it was announced that KBR-Halliburton was suing the National Guardsmen that the company knowingly sent into toxic, contaminated areas. Today, it came out that the parents of one of the victims of the Aurora, CO mass shooting is now being forced to pay $200,000 after a little-known law was used to block their lawsuit against an online ammo dealer.
Jessica Ghawi was brutally murdered along with eleven others in a movie theater by a deranged lunatic with an automatic rifle and high-capacity magazines. The ammunition was purchased online, and the family of Ms. Ghawi attempted to sue four ammo dealers for their role in providing weapons of mass murder to the public.
Unfortunately, case was dismissed before trial because of a little law pushed through by then-President George W. Bush- Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, or PLCAA, an astonishing piece of legislation that insulates gun and ammunition vendors from the consequences of selling weapons to civilians. Robyn Thomas, Executive Director of the San Francisco-based Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said that “[what the] PLCAA does is it provides very broad, blanket immunity from civil lawsuits for both gun manufacturers and gun dealers…This is one example of a situation where somebody has tried to address liability, to go after bad actions of a dealer or manufacturer and PLCAA kept them from being able to do so.”
The judge on the case is now forcing the family to pay the legal fees of the ammo dealers- some $200,000, which the family does not have. “They have taken our daughter, and now they want to take our worldly goods…I think that’s a little much” mourned the father, Lonnie Phillips.
It is an absolute travesty that arms dealers don’t have to take responsibility for the weapons that they sell. Maybe if they were incentivized to pay a little more attention to their customers and put the onus on them, we wouldn’t have to deal with these tragedies so often.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.