WASHINGTON, D.C. (September 4, 2019) — Today, Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC) announced the filing of an important amicus (“friend of the court”) brief with the United States Supreme Court in Remington Arms Co., LLC, v. Soto (Supreme Court docket no. 19-168), a case from the Connecticut Supreme Court which earlier held that firearms industry members can be sued for the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012. The brief, available online at www.fpclegal.org, was authored by FPC Director of Research Joseph Greenlee, law professor Dave Kopel of the Independence Institute, and the Cato Institute’s Ilya Shapiro and Trevor Burrus.

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Issue Background

A violent criminal used a Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle to carry out his heinous killing at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. Administrators of the estates of several decedents sued Bushmaster and Remington to hold them civilly liable for the shooter’s crime.

In 2005, Congress enacted the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) to prevent firearms manufacturers and dealers from being held civilly liable for crimes committed by third parties. Congress expressly recognized that imposing such liability would violate the Second and Fourteenth Amendments.

The Supreme Court of Connecticut, however, determined that Remington nevertheless shared responsibility for the crime because its “militaristic marketing” was an unfair trade practice. Following the Connecticut ruling, Remington petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari, seeking to overturn the lower court’s decision.

About The Brief

FPC and its fellow amici filed a brief in support of Remington’s petition, explaining that “the exercise of the right to keep and bear arms has always had a relationship to military use of arms,” hence the Second Amendment’s prefatory clause preventing the elimination of the militia. Indeed, throughout the colonial and founding eras, government mandated that most of the free population (often including women) acquire and keep the arms most suitable for militia service.

The brief provides the history and purpose of the PLCAA, and describes the decades of abusive lawsuits brought by anti-gun cities and states intended to bankrupt the firearms industry. The brief draws parallels between the abusive suits designed to destroy the firearms industry and the abusive suits brought by civil rights opponents throughout the Civil Rights movement, designed to destroy free speech in the Jim Crow South. Just as the Supreme Court halted the abusive lawsuits against the press in the 1960s, Congress enacted the PLCAA to end the abusive lawsuits against the firearms industry. 

FPC’s coalition amicus brief encourages the Supreme Court to restore the PLCAA’s protections of fundamental, individual human rights.

“Abusive civil lawsuits have long been used to suppress the exercise of disfavored constitutional rights. But both the Supreme Court and Congress have actively forbidden such lawsuit abuse,” explained brief co-author and FPC Director of Research, Joseph Greenlee. “Just as imposing tort liability on press manufacturers for third-party crimes would curtail the freedom of the press, cases like this one threaten the right to keep and bear arms. We are hopeful that the Supreme Court intervenes as it has in the past to quash such abusive suits.”

Joining FPC on the brief as amici are law professors and Second Amendment scholars Randy Barnett (Georgetown), Royce Barondes (Missouri), Robert Cottrol (George Washington), Nicholas Johnson (Fordham), Joyce Malcolm (George Mason), George Mocsary (Southern Illinois), Joseph Olson (Mitchell Hamline), Glenn Reynolds (Tennessee), Eugene Volokh (UCLA), and Gregory Wallace (Campbell), as well as advocacy organizations Firearms Policy Foundation, Cato Institute, Independence Institute, Madison Society Foundation, and California Gun Rights Foundation (formerly The Calguns Foundation).

Firearms Policy Coalition (www.firearmspolicy.org) is a 501(c)4 grassroots nonprofit organization. FPC’s mission is to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, especially the fundamental, individual Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, advance individual liberty, and restore freedom.

Firearms Policy Foundation (www.firearmsfoundation.org) is a 501(c)3 grassroots nonprofit organization. FPF’s mission is to defend the Constitution of the United States and the People’s rights, privileges and immunities deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition, especially the inalienable, fundamental, and individual right to keep and bear arms.