Blumenthal, Murphy try again to strip legal shield from gun industry

Washington – After Lonnie and Sandy Phillips lost their 24-year-old daughter, Jessi, in a 2012 mass shooting in a movie theater in Aurora, Co., the couple tried to sue the online retailer who sold their daughter’s killer 4,000 rounds of armor-piercing ammunition without a background check.

But because a federal law gives gun retailers and gun manufacturers unique legal protections, the Phillips’ lawsuit was dismissed. The couple not only had to pay their own legal fees, but a judge ordered them to pay the retailer, Lucky Gunner, $200,000 to cover its legal expenses.

Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy have been trying for years to level that legal playing field to help people like the Phillips and other victims of gun violence seeking to sue the gun industry, including a group of Sandy Hook families.

On Tuesday, the senators introduced a bill for the fourth time that would repeal the gun industry’s legal protections.

Those protections were obtained in 2005 with Congress’ approval of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, or PLCAA, which shields firearms manufacturers and dealers from being held liable when crimes have been committed with their products. A similar bill was introduced by Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., for the third time, in the U.S. House.