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Changing Laws May Allow Mass Shooting Victims to Sue Gun Manufacturers

CULVER CITY, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 15: People stand in line outside the Martin B. Retting, Inc. guns store on March 15, 2020 in Culver City, California. The spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) has prompted some Americans to line up for supplies in a variety of stores. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
By Ashley Ravid | Last updated on

Restricting the sale of guns in the United States is a difficult task, thanks to the lobbying power of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and other anti-gun control activists, organizations, and individuals. But a new law in New York and a lawsuit against a Nevada gun manufacturer might finally provide legal grounds to restrict the sale of guns like those used in mass shootings.

Ohio Shooting Victims Bring Suit

In 2019, a shooting in Dayton, Ohio, left 10 dead, including the perpetrator. A group of survivors and family members of the deceased victims are suing Nevada gun manufacturer Kyung Chang Industry USA Inc., as well as Kyungchang Industry Co Ltd. (its South Korea-based parent company) for their alleged failure to institute proper safety and background checks on purchasers. The manufacturers created the 100-round large-capacity magazine used in the shooting.

The suit alleges that Kyung Chang failed to comply with Nevada laws to prevent the gun parts from being purchased for criminal use. Sales of large-capacity magazines like the one used in the Dayton shooting are supposed to occur in person and include criminal background checks.

This is far from the first lawsuit to try to enact some form of gun control. The Nevada lawsuit is unique, however, in that it is believed to be the first to attribute responsibility for a mass shooting to the gun manufacturer.

According to Reuters, "Litigation against gun manufacturers and retailers has often been stymied by the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which generally shields the defendants from liability for crimes committed with their guns. However, some state courts have found in recent years that manufacturers can be liable in some circumstances, particularly if they violate state laws."

New York Makes History By Cracking Down

In June 2021, New York lawmakers passed landmark legislation enabling lawsuits against gun manufacturers. The statute uses a loophole in the legal protections for gun manufacturers that allows them to be held legally responsible for improperly marketing their products.

President Biden and other Democratic governors and state lawmakers have also shown interest in passing similar legislation.

This is not the first time that gun manufacturers have been targeted by families of mass shooting victims. The families of the Sandy Hook shooting victims used a Connecticut marketing law to bring suit against gun manufacturer Remington Arms Co. back in 2014, with the case recently settling for $33 million.

Mexico Joins in the Fray

The Mexican government is fed up with the flow of dangerous arms between the U.S. and Mexico. And that's from the U.S. to Mexico, to be clear, despite some politicians' claims to the contrary.

In early August 2021, Mexican officials filed a lawsuit in Massachusetts against 10 gun manufacturers, alleging their complicity in helping to maintain a flow of dangerous guns and automatic weapons to cartels. Particularly notable is the guns' marketing practices, which seem designed to target Spanish audiences — though Massachusetts law will likely make it hard for the lawsuit to succeed. Nevertheless, experts believe that the involvement of a foreign government will get the federal government's attention.

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