Just when you think the gun manufacturers and National Rifle Association (NRA) have sunk about as low as they can go, they come up with something even more outrageous: Make victims families pay court costs of any legal action.
The gun makers and NRA have long engaged in nefarious lobbying activity that has undercut public safety, now they have persuaded politicians to adopt laws making the victims of gun violence pay the legal fees for challenging their sacrosanct position in society.
In September 2014, the Brady Center announced a lawsuit on behalf of Sandy and Lonnie Phillips, accusing Web site companies of negligence for selling weapons to the Aurora, Colorado theater shooter, James Holmes. The Phillips daughter, Jessica Ghawi, was killed in the shooting. The lawsuit charges the companies with negligence for selling weaponry (including ammunition, body armor, tear gas and other equipment used in this assault) to someone as obviously unstable as Holmes. Holmes ended up killing 12 and wounding 70 others on July 20, 2012.
Senior U.S. District Judge Richard P. Matsch of the District of Colorado dismissed Sandy and Lonnie Phillips’ suit against four Web sites because Colorado and federal laws shield firearms and ammunition sellers from liability based on a customer’s wrongful acts. Phillips et al. v. Lucky Gunner LLC et al., No. 14–cv–02822, 2015 WL 1499382 (D. Colo. Mar. 27, 2015).
Both federal and Colorado laws protect gun makers and sellers from being held responsible for selling arms to people who are a danger to themselves and others, but Colorado has taken this outrage a step further, requiring plaintiffs to pay the court costs.
Lucky Gunner and Sportsman Guide (two of the companies selling to Holmes) have already filed motions for $220,000 in legal costs. According to press reports, another arms dealer, BTP Arms, wants another $33,000. BTP Arms request will probably fail because the law does not cover the two tear gas grenades Holmes bought from BTP Arms or the four pieces of body armor from bulletproofbodyarmorhq.com.
The Phillips lawsuit underscores not only this country’s lax gun laws, but the fact that U.S. laws protect gun makers and sellers, the average citizen has virtually no recourse against weapons manufacturers or the gun lobby.