Could it be that irresponsible peddlers of mass murder are finally going to be held accountable? I wouldn’t put my money on it just yet, but I applaud Sandy and Lonnie Phillips, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, and Arnold & Porter LLP for suing a number of ammunition suppliers over their role in helping facilitate the terrible Aurora, Colorado, movie theater massacre and the death of the Phillips’ daughter, Jessica Ghawi.
As you may know, in most other facets of our society we hold people responsible for selling a defective product, marketing inappropriate items to children, or in the case of bartenders, continuing to serve tequila shooters to someone who’s completely cockeyed and then climbs behind the wheel to jack-knife a tractor trailer.
But this is America, where 5-year-olds who can’t hold up a butter knife can still shoot an Uzi on the range with mom and dad’s say-so and you can stand your ground against skittles and hoodies. So is it any surprise that “Lucky Gunner” (BulkAmmo.com) can sell 4,000 rounds over the Internet to a single person without asking questions such as “Are you in the process of fighting of a pack of wild rhinos?”
But no red flags were raised when alleged murderer James Holmes purchased 4,000 rounds—something not possible in any other advanced country—or a 100-drum ammunition magazine along with 700 more rounds from The Sportsman’s Guide. Nor was an eyelash batted when he bought body armor and tear gas from BulletProofBodyArmorHQ.com and BP Arms, respectively. Clearly these are items that anyone, no matter their mental state or arrest record, must have available at the click of a mouse.
As Jonathan Lowy, director of the Brady Center’s Legal Action Project, put it: “A crazed, homicidal killer should not be able to amass a military arsenal, without showing his face or answering a single question….”
No, they shouldn’t, and they wouldn’t, if it weren’t for the witch’s brew of intellectual children, blood profiteers and quivering Republican and Blue Dog Democratic politicians who still possess way too much power in setting our laws on this subject. (Luckily, that’s beginning to change, but it’s a long road.)
This is why this lawsuit is so important. Of course there’s the issue of justice, something the Phillips’ have until now been denied and deserve. But it is past time for the courts—often the final place for justice to be meted out in our country’s history—to start rectifying some of the immoral decisions made by gun-fetishizing politicians and judges over the past generation. The ones who think “well regulated” means not regulated at all, and “militia” means individual, including any old hump who dons his PJs on the weekend to protect Cheyenne from U.N. invasion.
This includes the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act and the ridiculous decision for guns to be the only consumer product not regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Both make this lawsuit a more difficult one to win.
However, the act that gives blanket immunity seems only to apply to licensed dealers. Several sources said there is legal precedent for “negligent entrustment,” as these ammo companies aren’t supposed to supply someone they have reason to believe would pose a danger. They have a “duty to inquire” and the slightest attempt to do so would have led them to an incoherent and even “creepy” voicemail message Holmes left at a gun range, which was enough to convince the gun-range owner to reject Holmes.
So perhaps a judge and jury will see that selling enough weaponry to someone for them to join ISIS should require a few inconvenient questions as part of a background check, and even a look at their face.
As the courts brought common sense and a correct reading of our Constitution to race relations and women’s rights in the recent past, so too could they to the rest of us who wish to go about our days without getting caught in the crossfire of the unhinged toting high-capacity magazines.