Victims of Uvalde start legal action against US gun manufacturer
NPR reports that one of the parents of the 19 children slain in the Uvalde school shooting has joined one of the teachers to take the first steps to file a lawsuit against the gun maker who made the AR-15-style rifle used in the massacre.
Alfred Garza III and Kimberly García, parents of a 10-year-old girl who called 911 inside her classroom before being fatally shot, sent letters through attorneys to gun maker Daniel Defense. In them, they expressed their intention to start a legal investigation and the need to preserve any legally relevant document.
18-year-old Salvador Ramos, who opened fire in Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24, legally bought an AR-15-style rifle from Georgia-based gun maker Daniel Defense. Ramos even shared the reciept on his Instagram account.
Pictured: The home of Salvador Ramos in Uvalde, Texas.
“My purpose for being now is to honor Amerie Jo's memory”, said Alfred Garza III to NPR. “She would want me to do everything I can so this will never happen again to any other child. I have to fight her fight”.
The two of them aren’t alone in their legal action. Emilia Marin, a speech therapist from Robb Elementary who hid in the school during the massacre, filed a court petition to force company officials to sit during a deposition.
The court documents filed in the Texas 38th Judicial District by Marin also demand that Daniel Defense should reveal in court information about the company’s profits, sales, lobbying, and marketing of AR-15-style rifles.
Pictured: The Daniel Defense booth at the 2019 NRA convention.
“They're marketing to people who it's not reasonable to have guns”, stated Don Flanary, Marin's attorney, as quoted by NPR.
Pictured: Image from the official Twitter feed of Daniel Defense, showing a toddler carrying a firearm.
The deposition filed by the Robb Elementary teacher also petitioned Daniel Defense information about the four AR-15-style rifles found in the hotel room of the 2017 Las Vegas shooter.
Parties can begin collecting evidence before bringing a lawsuit to court in Texas. This is called a pre-suit deposition and can be used to investigate a potential claim or called to compel testimony that will be used in a legal case.
While not full-blown lawsuits, these filings are the first steps to determine if the gun manufacturer can face legal action for how they advertise firearms, particularly to young men.
Daniel Defense released a statement on its website as a response to the school shooting, claiming it would cooperate with any investigation regarding the massacre: “We will keep the families of the victims and the entire Uvalde community in our thoughts and our prayers”.
However, filing a lawsuit against a gun manufacturer in the United States is an uphill battle, thanks to lobbying from organizations like the NRA.
According to The Guardian, the approval of the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) stopped on its tracks a wave of lawsuits over the reckless marketing and sale of guns in the United States.
PLCAA, The Guardian writes, was approved by a Republican-majority Congress during the George W. Bush Administration. The NRA lobbied for the law after the families of those harmed by the 2002 D.C. Sniper Attacks got 2.5 million US dollars in compensation from gun manufacturer Bushmaster.
However, victims are now taking an alternative path to circumvent PLCAA and take legal action against gun manufacturers. The PLCAA doesn’t offer protection if a firearm is sold in violation of federal or state law, such as public nuisance and consumer protection laws.
The Guardian highlights that is the strategy that was used against tobacco companies in US courts for denying there was a link connecting smoking and cancer in their marketing campaigns.
The families affected by the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary also successfully sued gun maker Remington for breaching state laws on grounds of irresponsible militaristic marketing aimed at young men.
In February 2022, Remington paid the Sandy Hook families 73 million US dollars. However, the question remains if other gun makers will face the same consequences.