The National Rifle Association's news show Cam & Company hosted an attorney to attack as “frivolous” and “irresponsible” a lawsuit filed against NRA corporate donor Bushmaster for making the gun used in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.
On December 13, several Newtown families sued Bushmaster under a “negligent entrustment” theory for the gun manufacturer's role in putting an assault weapon into the hands of a gunman who killed 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012. The lawsuit also named Bushmaster's parent company, Remington Arms Company, as well as the seller and the distributor of the gun.
Steve Halbrook, an attorney who writes about the Second Amendment and other gun issues, joined Cam & Company on December 16 to repeatedly suggest that the lawsuit was “frivolous,” call for the complaint to be dismissed, and argue that Bushmaster may be entitled to compensation for attorney's fees. Halbrook is also the author of a book that advances the ahistorical claim that gun restrictions were responsible for Hitler's rise to power and served as counsel for the NRA in the landmark Supreme Court case McDonald v. Chicago.)
During his appearance, Halbrook said that the plaintiffs -- who are family members of teachers and children who were killed at Newtown, as well as one survivor of the attack -- and their lawyers were “extremely irresponsible” to file the lawsuit.
According to Halbrook, the lawsuit is precluded by the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA). The 2005 law, which was championed by former NRA board member and then-Senator Larry Craig (R-ID), seeks to exempt gun manufacturers and sellers from liability when guns that they make or sell are used to kill or injure people. The NRA awarded Craig its Harlon B. Carter Legislative Achievement Award in 2006 to recognize Craig's advocacy for the law and other NRA initiatives.
While the PLCAA has helped the gun industry avoid liability, there are exemptions to the law. According to The Wall Street Journal, one such exemption “allows for so-called negligent entrustment lawsuits” -- the theory being advanced by Newtown families -- “under which one party can be held liable for entrusting a product to another party who then causes harm to a third party.”
This is not the first time the NRA has stood up for Bushmaster when the gun maker has been criticized for making and selling the Sandy Hook murder gun. In an October 15 commentary video, the NRA argued that blaming Bushmaster for Sandy Hook was “like blaming Kleenex for the flu.”
Bushmaster's parent company, Remington Outdoor Company (ROC), is a major NRA donor. ROC -- formerly known as Freedom Group -- has given the NRA between $1,000,000 and $4,999,999 in corporate donations since 2005, according to a September 2013 report from gun violence prevention group Violence Policy Center. ROC's CEO, George Kollitides, is deeply enmeshed with the NRA and participates in the gun group's leadership. Kollitides was appointed to the NRA board of directors nominating committee after failing to win a spot on the board in the 2009 elections. He made another unsuccessful board run in 2013. Despite failing to garner the support of the NRA's voting members, Kollitides has also served as a trustee to the NRA Foundation.
Photo by Bill Morrow