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Can Bushmaster Be Sued Over CT School Shooting?

By Andrew Lu on December 19, 2012 3:51 AM

Can Bushmaster be sued over the deadly Connecticut elementary school shooting?

A Bushmaster rifle was reportedly used in the shootings that claimed 26 lives at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. A Bushmaster rifle was also used in the Washington, D.C.-area sniper attacks in 2002, after which victims and their families sued the company, Forbes reports. The suit ended in a $2.5 million settlement.

The company may soon find itself involved in another lawsuit tied to the elementary school tragedy. This may be true even though there is a federal law that would seem to bar lawsuits against gunmakers for crimes committed with their products, according to Forbes.

Congress passed the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act in 2005, and President George W. Bush signed it into law. The act was specifically aimed at reducing lawsuits against gun manufacturers over illegal acts committed by their customers, writes Forbes.

But even with this statutory protection, the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence says that gun manufacturers like Bushmaster could still face legal consequences for such tragedies.

That's because while the 2005 act does provide general protections to gun manufacturers, there are loopholes in the law that could potentially expose a gun manufacturer to liability.

For example, gun manufacturers and dealers who negligently allow guns to get into the wrong hands, knowingly file false paperwork, or aid and abet the sale of guns to felons and those who should not have weapons, can potentially be held liable for any resulting injuries caused by the guns.

In the 2002 sniper case, for example, it was shoddy record-keeping by a gun dealer that allowed victims to sue Bushmaster and the dealer for negligence, Forbes reports.

Given that Adam Lanza's mom legally purchased the gun used in the Connecticut shootings, according to news reports, it's not clear what legal theory plaintiffs could use to sue Bushmaster. However, you can bet some very smart attorneys are exploring the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act for any and all possible loopholes.

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