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Special Communication
Firearm Violence
January 2017

Testing the Immunity of the Firearm Industry to Tort Litigation

Author Affiliations
  • 1Stanford Law School, Stanford, California
  • 2Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California

Copyright 2017 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved.

JAMA Intern Med. 2017;177(1):102-105. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.7043

In the absence of congressional action to reinstate the federal ban on assault weapons, tort litigation offers an alternative strategy for regulating what have become the weapons of choice in mass shootings. However, opportunities to bring successful claims are limited. To prevail, plaintiffs must show that their suit fits within exceptions to the broad immunity from tort actions that Congress gave the firearm industry in the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. In one particularly high-profile lawsuit, families of victims of the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012 sued the makers and sellers of the military-style rifle used in the attack, alleging negligence and deceptive marketing. The trial court dismissed the case on October 14, 2016, but the plaintiffs plan to appeal. We review the history of tort litigation against the firearm industry, outline the Newtown families’ claims, and describe the decision.