Anti-PLCAA Forces Bring Out Big Legal Guns

Remington Arms et al v. Soto et al is at the US Supreme Court on appeal from the Connecticut Supreme Court. Remington is asking for a writ of certiorari and is seeking to overturn the horrendous ruling out of Connecticut. That 4-3 ruling stretched state law to cover acts that should have been precluded from suit by the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.

This past Friday the respondents (aka the anti-PLCAA side) filed their reply brief. The brief itself is not the story here. Rather it is who the ambulance chasing Joshua Koskoff with his novel legal theories corralled to be the counsel of record and to argue the case before the Supreme Court.

The counsel of record is Donald B. Verrilli, Jr. who served as Obama’s Solicitor General from 2011 until 2016. He is now a partner is the high powered California-DC law firm of Munger, Tolles, and Olson. That firm was co-founded by Warren Buffet’s investment partner Charlie Munger.

Donald Verrilli attorney for Soto

The National Law Journal’s Supreme Court Brief has this to say about his appointment.

The families of victims of the Sandy Hook school shooting have retained former U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. to represent them in their U.S. Supreme Court fight with gunmaker Remington Arms Co. LLC.

Verrilli, now a partner at Munger, Tolles & Olson, was counsel of record for the plaintiffs, according to new filings in the U.S. Supreme Court. He filed a brief on their behalf Friday to oppose Remington’s attempt to have the U.S. Supreme Court rule that a federal law shields it from liability in the Sandy Hook case….

“The Sandy Hook victims were slain in a commando-style assault on the school. Their killer’s weapon of choice was a Bushmaster XM15-E2S rifle, manufactured and marketed by petitioners,” the Munger Tolles team said in their opposition brief. “The XM15-E2S was designed for military combat, specifically to inflict maximum lethal harm on the enemy. Petitioners’ marketing emphasized precisely those characteristics of the firearm. In words and images, petitioners touted the XM15-E2S as a combat-tested weapon that would bestow the power to ‘perform under pressure’ and ‘single-handedly’ conquer ‘forces of opposition.'”

If I had to hazard a guess, I would say Verrilli and the rest of the Munger, Tolles team are doing this case pro bono. The firm takes great pride in their pro bono activities.

This case is all about the supremacy of Federal law. Thus, it takes a bit of chutzpah (or hypocrisy) for Verrilli to argue against PLCAA when one of his self-identified landmark wins (Arizona v. US) was all about the supremacy of Federal law.

Reactions, Pro And Con, To Connecticut Supreme Court Ruling

As you can well imagine the gun prohibitionists are ecstatic over the Connecticut Supreme Court’s constitutionally dubious ruling in Soto et al v. Bushmaster et al today. Both the Brady Campaign and the Giffords Law Center had filed amicus briefs in the case.

From the Brady Campaign which has been working hard to punch holes in the Protection of Legal Commerce in Arms Act for many years:

Justices have reversed a lower court ruling allowing the lawsuit to move forward and put the question to a jury of whether or not Remington and gun dealers can be held accountable for its role in the 2012 shooting. The lawsuit argues that the assault-style weapon used in the massacre had knowingly been marketed to the public despite being designed for military use. It is also argued that the weapon’s marketing deliberately appealed to young people, particularly those like the 20-year-old who killed 26 people in Newtown, Connecticut.


“This is a good day for justice and for victims of gun violence everywhere,” stated Brady President, Kris Brown. “The law requires everyone, particularly businesses, to operate in a way that will not cause foreseeable harm. It’s time for gun companies to be held to this same standard, and stop being allowed to put profits over people. Brady stands ready to continue our support of Sandy Hook families in their quest for justice.”


For 30 years Brady’s legal team has led the way in winning precedent setting cases that hold gun companies accountable for their role in gun crimes. These cases are reining in and challenging gun industry protection laws, and include a negligent marketing claim against the maker of an assault weapon used in a mass shooting in 1993. This case was discussed at length in today’s decision. Brady’s team provided advice and counsel to the Sandy Hook lawyers throughout the case, also filing an amicus brief in support of plaintiffs.


“We are happy that the Sandy Hook families will get the day in court they deserve. Companies that choose to market weapons of war to the public should not get a free pass from the duty to use the reasonable care that every other person or business must follow,” stated Brady’s VP of Legal, Jon Lowy. “It is unfortunate that the gun industry’s special protection law forced these grieving families to endure years of appeals to get what should be rightfully theirs — their day in court and an opportunity to prove their case. Thankfully this court recognized that if you unreasonably market weapons of war to the public, you can be held accountable for the consequences.”

Reader of this blog know that not one military in the world has adopted the semi-automatic AR-15 or its progeny for use. Calling it a “weapon of war” and “designed for military use” is an outright lie and both Brown and Lowy know it.

Likewise, the Cult of Personality’s Legal Arm otherwise known as Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence has weighed in on the ruling with a comment from Adams Skaggs who is their chief counsel.

“Today’s decision is a victory for the families of Sandy Hook and a victory for the principle that no industry is above the law or above accountability. The Connecticut Supreme Court squarely rejected the idea that any industry, no matter how powerful, can slam the courthouse doors shut to the victims of their illegal marketing practices. Now, these families who suffered so much will have the day in court they rightly deserve. We look forward to working with them as this case moves forward, and to supporting all victims of American gun violence as they pursue justice.”

Understandably, those who stand for the rule of law and the recognition that the liability for the criminal misuse of any legal product lies with the criminal were not pleased with this ruling.

Alan Gottlieb of the Second Amendment Foundation responded strongly saying, in part:

“This ruling strains logic, if not common sense,” said SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan M. Gottlieb. “The court dismissed the bulk of the lawsuit’s allegations, but appears to have grasped at this single straw by deciding that the advertising is somehow at fault for what did that day in December more than six years ago.


“This is like suing Ford or General Motors because a car they sold was stolen and used to run over a pedestrian all because the car manufacturers advertised that their car had better acceleration and performance than other vehicles,” he added.


, 20, first killed his mother and took her legally-purchased Bushmaster rifle to the school, where he murdered 20 youngsters and six adults. The lawsuit contends that Remington’s advertising was designed to glorify the Bushmaster rifle and enhance its appeal to younger consumers.

Justice Richard Palmer, writing for the majority, said that the “regulation of advertising that threatens the public’s health, safety, and morals has long been considered a core exercise of the state’s police powers.”


“That is absurd in this case,” Gottlieb observed. “Did the advertising even remotely suggest that the Bushmaster is best for murdering people? It appears to me like the court was looking for a way to squeak around the provisions of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act that Congress passed in 2005. After all, the court dismissed most of the allegations, but now has decided that advertising might be at fault. That’s a stretch of credulity worthy of surgical elastic.”


“There is no evidence the killer was driven by any advertising whatsoever,” he said. “This is an affront to the First Amendment as well as the Second. Even hinting that the killer was motivated in some way by an advertising message is so far out in the weeds that it may take a map for the court to find its way back.”

The National Shooting Sports Foundation, which is located in Newtown, Connecticut and whom is the actual lobby for the firearms industry, also disagreed with the majority’s opinion in the ruling. While a bit more circumspect that the SAF’s comment, it still expresses their displeasure.

NEWTOWN, Conn. – The Connecticut Supreme Court today reversed (4-3) a state Superior Court ruling and decided in Soto v. Bushmaster that the case can go forward based on the plaintiffs’ allegation that the defendants marketing and advertising of a legal product somehow violated Connecticut’s Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA). The Court’s split decision held that CUTPA fit within an exemption to the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) that permits lawsuits where the defendant violated a statute applicable to the sale of firearms. In a strongly worded and well-reasoned dissent, Chief Justice Robinson rejected the majority’s overly broad interpretation of the scope of the limited exception, which is contrary to legislative text, canons of statutory interpretation and the legislative history of the PLCAA. The majority’s decision today is at odds with all other state and federal appellate courts that have interpreted the scope of the exception. As the trade association for the firearms industry, the National Shooting Sports Foundation® filed an amicus brief in support of the defendants in this case and both respectfully disagrees with and is disappointed by the court’s majority decision.

Finally, from what I can tell from an internet search, neither Cerberus Capital Management nor Remington Outdoor Company have issued statements.

Connecticut Supreme Court Rules Remington Can Be Sued Regardless Of PLCAA

The Connecticut Supreme Court has ruled today that Remington can be sued by families of Newtown victims. This overturns a 2016 Connecticut Superior Court ruling that said that the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act precluded such a lawsuit. The 4-3 decision by the state supreme court held that while most claims were properly dismissed Bushmaster’s marketing of the AR-15 amounted to violations of the state’s unfair trade practices.

The majority opinion  written by Justice Richard Palmer concluded:

For the foregoing reasons, we conclude that the trial
court properly determined that, although most of the
plaintiffs’ claims should have been dismissed, PLCAA
does not bar the plaintiffs’ wrongful marketing claims
and that, at least to the extent that it prohibits the
unethical advertising of dangerous products for illegal
purposes, CUTPA qualifies as a predicate statute. Specifically, if the defendants did indeed seek to expand the
market for their assault weapons through advertising
campaigns that encouraged consumers to use the weapons not for legal purposes such as self-defense, hunting,
collecting, or target practice, but to launch offensive
assaults against their perceived enemies, then we are
aware of nothing in the text or legislative history of
PLCAA to indicate that Congress intended to shield the
defendants from liability for the tragedy that resulted.



The judgment is reversed with respect to the trial
court’s ruling that the plaintiffs lack standing to bring
a CUTPA claim and its conclusion that the plaintiffs’
wrongful death claims predicated on the theory that
any sale of military style assault weapons to the civilian
market represents an unfair trade practice were not
barred under the applicable statute of limitations, and
the case is remanded for further proceedings according
to law; the judgment is affirmed in all other respects.

 The majority also concluded that it was doubtful that the most popular rifle and carbines sold in the US over the last few years was even protected by the Second Amendment. As Professor William Jacobson at Legal Insurrection notes, the Connecticut Supreme Court seems to be daring the US Supreme Court to take this case.

Jacobson goes on to say:

The question is not only whether the U.S. Supreme Court will take the case, but when that will happen — now, or only after a final judgment is rendered in the CT courts. That’s key, because if a gun manufacturer otherwise protected by PLCAA has to go through discovery and trial, that defeats the purpose of PLCAA.

The dissent  written by Chief Justice Richard Robinson examined the PLCAA, Congressional intent, and case law and concluded:

In summary, whether this court agrees with Congress
or not, in adopting the arms act, Congress adopted
findings and statements of purpose in 15 U.S.C. § 7901;
see footnote 1 of this dissenting opinion; which made
very clear its intent to absolve defendants like these—
gun manufacturers and distributors—from liability for
criminal use of firearms by third parties except in the
most limited and narrow circumstances and, particularly, to shield them from novel or vague standards of
liability.22 This court is obligated, therefore, to construe
the predicate exception to the arms act, 15 U.S.C. § 7903
(5) (A) (iii), narrowly in light of that clear expression
of congressional intent.

Chief Justice Robinson continues:

Consequently, I strongly disagree with the
majority’s conclusion that CUTPA, which is a broadly
drafted state unfair trade practices statute applicable
to all commercial entities in a variety of factual circumstances, comes within that exception.24 Instead, I would
conclude that, because CUTPA, both in its statutory
text and in its implementation under the cigarette rule,
reaches a range of commercial conduct that far exceeds
the manufacture, marketing, and sale of firearms, it is
not by itself a predicate statute. That state unfair trade
practices statutes had not been used to hold firearms
manufacturers civilly liable to crime victims25 renders
the plaintiffs’ CUTPA claims particularly novel in the
contemplation of Congress; see 15 U.S.C. § 7901 (a) (7)
(2012); and, thus, subject to preclusion under the arms
act.

I most certainly hope that Remington appeals this decision to the US Supreme Court as this ruling by the Connecticut Supreme Court certainly serves to undercut the supremacy of Federal law. More importantly, I hope the US Supreme Court takes this case sooner than later.

As an aside, Justice Palmer who wrote the majority opinion in this case served as the US Attorney for Connecticut from 1991 to 1993 and was appointed by President George H. W. Bush. So much for assuming Republicans respect the rule of law, the Constitution, or the supremacy of Federal law on what is rightfully a Federal issue. I guess Justice Palmer didn’t want to irritate his friends down at the country club by ruling in favor of those icky gun companies.

#Gunvote – Correcting The Record

Hillary Clinton and the gun prohibitionists are on a jihad against the Protection of Legal Commerce in Arms Act. They have been willfully mischaracterizing it as a total exemption from liability by the firearms industry. In fact, it only protects the makers and sellers from the misuse of their products by criminals and contains six enumerated exceptions to the qualified civil liability protections in the law.

The NSSF has released a YouTube correcting Hillary. It is worth two minutes of your time.

As Bad As The Sandy Hook Truthers

I and others get regular emails from what I call “Sandy Hook Truthers”. They assert a number of things including that the whole thing was a hoax. A recent Hillary Clinton fundraising email is in the same league as the Truthers.

As reported by the Daily Caller, the email is headlined, “The differences between Senator Sanders and me.” It goes on to assert that SHE is the only one standing with the Sandy Hook families because SHE voted against the Protection for Legal Commerce in Arms Act of 2005.

In 2007, Senator Ted Kennedy made a valiant effort to pass immigration reform — I stood with him and voted for that bill. Senator Sanders voted against it.


This week, families from Sandy Hook are in court suing the manufacturer of the gun that killed their children, challenging the law that gives gun-makers legal immunity. I voted against that law. Senator Sanders voted for it.

The bill passed the Senate in a 65-31 vote and the House in a 283-144 vote. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) was in the House of Representatives then as the sole representative from the state of Vermont. He along with 59 Democrats voted for passage of the PLCAA. Only four Republicans voted against it including, believe it or not, then-Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX).

What Hillary Clinton should be railing against are scum-dog ambulance chasing lawyers who are preying on the emotions of the families of the dead children of Sandy Hook. The manufacturer of the stolen AR-15 is no more responsible for the deaths of those children than you or I. That doesn’t stop the ambulance chasing lawyer from dreaming of a big payday along with big headlines.

Likewise, when it comes to presidential politics and the chance to scarf up money and votes, everything is on the table for Hillary. If it puts her in the same league as the Truthers, so what. They deny the event happened and she is saying that Bernie stands in the way of “justice” for those poor families. Whether she believes what she says is true or not is irrelevant. Money and votes – not the families of Sandy Hook – is what she cares about.

Williams V. Beemiller, Inc. – NY Court Says PLCAA Doesn’t Apply

In a decision last Friday in New York State, the Appellate Division, Fourth Judicial Department reversed the dismissal of a case, Williams et al v. Beemiller, Inc., et al, involving the manufacturer of Hi-Point firearms, its distributor, and a licensed dealer under the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. They remanded the case back to Superior Court for trial. The firm representing Hi-Point (Beemiller, Inc.), the Renzulli Law Firm, had won the dismissal of a similar case in Connecticut last year. Williams was represented in the suit by the Brady Center.

This reversal has gotten a good deal with play in the non-firearms press with stories in the Wall Street Journal, ABC News, and industry publications like Insurance Journal.

Attorneys for the distributor, MKS Supply, are undecided about whether to appeal or not but do believe the case will ultimately be dismissed.

Jeffrey Malsch, a lawyer for MKS, said he is reviewing the decision.


“We believe (the lower court’s ruling) was a courageous and legally
correct decision, but the Fourth Department was unwilling to follow his
well reasoned opinion,” he said. “Whether we appeal or not, we are
confident that ultimately the facts will contradict the baseless
allegations in the complaint and the case will be dismissed.”

This case involved a Buffalo, New York teen, Donald Williams, who was misidentified as a member of a rival gang and shot. The weapon used was a 9mm Hi-Point pistol which was purchased at a gun show in Ohio from a licensed dealer. It appears that it was a straw purchase even though the court documents allege the sale of the pistol to a New York State resident.  However, under the Gun Control Act of 1968, an out of state resident cannot purchase and take direct delivery of a handgun. The handgun must be shipped to FFL in the purchaser’s home state who will then run the NICS check along with complying with local and state laws governing the purchase of a handgun.

While the court said it was undisputed that this matter falls within the PLCAA’s general definition of a “qualified civil liability action”, they said in this case one of the six permitted exceptions to a “qualified civil liability action” did apply.


Of particular relevance here, a “qualified civil liability action” does not include “an action in which a manufacturer or seller of a qualified product knowingly violated a State or Federal statute applicable to the sale or marketing of the product, and the violation was a proximate cause of the harm for which relief is sought” (15 USC
§ 7903 [5] [A] [iii] [emphasis added]).

The court went on to say that when reviewing a motion to dismiss, they must accept the facts as stated in the complaint and accord the plaintiffs the benefit of the doubt.


Applying that standard, we agree with plaintiffs that the court erred in dismissing the complaint inasmuch as they sufficiently alleged that defendants knowingly violated various federal and state statutes applicable to the sale or marketing of firearms within the meaning of the PLCAA’s predicate exception.

The statutes that the defendants are alleged to have violated are those involving straw purchases and trafficking of firearms illegally. They especially allege this with regard to the dealer Charles Brown who operated out of his home.


In October 2000, Brown allegedly sold Bostic and/or Upshaw handguns, including the gun used to shoot plaintiff, at a gun show in Ohio. According to plaintiffs, Brown knew or should have known that Upshaw and/or Bostic were purchasing the 87 handguns for trafficking in the criminal market rather than for their personal use because (1)they had purchased multiple guns on prior occasions; (2) they paid for the guns in cash; and (3) they selected Hi-Point 9mm handguns, which are “disproportionately used in crime” and have “no collector value or interest.”

To conclude, the court in general accepted all the allegations of the Brady Center on behalf of the plaintiff Donald Williams. They also are going to allow the Brady Center to go on a fishing expedition into Brown’s relationship with MKS Distributors.

 Ultimately, I think this case will be dismissed against all the defendants but especially Beemiller, Inc. dba Hi-Point Firearms. Since they sold to an intermediary distributor, it will be hard to argue that they should be held responsible for the actions of a dealer over whom they had no control nor direct relationship.

This case was the topic of a recent segment of NRA News with Cam Edwards interviewing Steve Halbrook regarding the court’s decision. He thinks it will be ultimately dismissed whether on appeal from this court or in the Superior Court for Erie County.

The court’s decision can be found here. The Brady Center’s breathless press release can be found here.