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Lawsuit targets Windham manufacturer of snipers' weapon
Portland Press Herald ^ | 1/17/03 | Mark Shanahan

Posted on 01/17/2003 6:45:47 AM PST by choosetheright

A lawsuit filed against the Maine company that made the rifle used in last fall's sniper shootings poses intriguing legal questions, experts say.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in Washington state by lawyers representing relatives of the snipers' victims, alleges that Windham-based Bushmaster Firearms Inc. showed gross negligence that caused injuries and death.

The suit, which seeks unspecified damages, also names the Tacoma, Wash., gun dealer that either sold or lost the rifle, as well as the sniper suspects, John Allen Muhammad and Lee Malvo. Muhammad and Malvo are accused of killing 13 people and wounding five others in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C.

"This is a very basic negligence case," said Daniel Vice, a lawyer at the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence in Washington, D.C., representing the plaintiffs. "Everyone, including those who make products made to kill, have to act responsibly in conducting their business."

The suit contends Bushmaster acted irresponsibly by selling its rifles to Bull's Eye Shooter Supply of Tacoma despite prior government audits that showed the store could not account for hundreds of guns.

Allen Faraday, vice president of administration for Bushmaster, said Thursday the company did nothing wrong. He said the high-powered Bushmaster XM15 assault rifle was sold legally to a federally licensed firearms dealer.

"We absolutely do not feel this lawsuit is legitimate," Faraday said. "It's unfortunate that there are very well-financed anti-gun groups out there that would take advantage of a heinous crime like this to take guns away from law-abiding citizens."

In recent years, several lawsuits have been filed, some successfully, seeking to hold gun dealers and manufacturers responsible for crimes committed by gun owners.

In November, a jury in Florida awarded $1.2 million to the widow of a schoolteacher killed by a student. The case against Valor Corp., the distributor of the handgun used in the shooting, marked the first time a gun dealer was found liable for distributing so-called "junk guns" without safety features.

Still, persuading a jury to hold dealers and manufacturers of firearms accountable for the conduct of their owners can be tricky.

"They'll argue that they are no more responsible for how a gun is used than General Motors is responsible for an accident caused by a person driving one of its cars," said John Paterson, a Portland trial lawyer who does product-liability work. "And, they'll say, it's impossible as a practical matter for us to police every retailer who chooses to sell our products."

According to the lawsuit filed Thursday, Bull's Eye Shooter Supply received the .223-caliber Bushmaster rifle on July 2, 2002, less than three months before the gun was used in the first sniper shooting in Maryland.

It's still not clear how Muhammad and Malvo, who were both legally prohibited from buying guns, obtained the Bushmaster rifle, which is a civilian version of the military's M-16 assault rifle.

"It moved incredibly fast from Bull's Eye to the hands of the snipers," said Vice, the lawyer at the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. "There had to be some grossly negligent conduct."

Faraday said Bushmaster was unaware that previous audits of the Tacoma gun dealer's records, done by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, detected more than 200 missing guns. He called Bull's Eye Shooting Supply - which is still federally licensed to sell guns - a "good customer" to whom Bushmaster will continue to sell. The company sells its guns to about 60 licensed dealers around the country.

Gun enthusiasts in Maine dismissed the suit against Bushmaster as exploitative.

"The problem's not the gun, but man's evilness of heart. That's what causes so much of these problems," said George Fogg of North Yarmouth, a longtime member of the National Rifle Association. "I've pounded my thumb something awful, but I didn't blame the darn hammer."

But William Harwood, president of Maine Citizens Against Handgun Violence, says gunmakers should not be insulated from lawsuits resulting from such shootings. And he says legislation pending in Congress that would grant gun manufacturers and sellers immunity from virtually all civil lawsuits is "a terrible idea."

"No one likes to be sued, but it's the way in our society we hold people accountable," Harwood said. "If this weapon was not properly accounted for, it's fair to ask a judge and jury whether that constitutes negligence."


TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: banglist; bushmaster; gun; lawsuit; sniper
This dealer can't account for how 200+ guns got out of the store. If I was Bushmaster, I think I'd be slamming the dealer and ATF for not catching it sooner. I don't think I'd be saying the dealer is a "good customer" and I'm still happy to sell to them.
1 posted on 01/17/2003 6:45:48 AM PST by choosetheright
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To: All
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2 posted on 01/17/2003 6:46:54 AM PST by Support Free Republic (Your support keeps Free Republic going strong!)
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To: Support Free Republic
Maybe they can sue Chevrolet because their product was so easilyMODIFIED INTO A SNIPERS PERCH?

The car is obviously TOO BIG for our own good. Ban it like the .50 cal rifles.Aren't THEY too big?

3 posted on 01/17/2003 6:54:58 AM PST by Puppage
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To: choosetheright
There is a couple of points I'd like to make about this rifle. The characteristics that define this rifle as an assault weapon, had no bearing on how it was actually used. Even though it has pistol grip, a detatchable magazine and is semi-auto, it was actually used as if it were a single-shot hunting rifle. I have no doubt these idiots would have sued even if the shooters used a hunting rifle. The fact that it is a so-called assault weapon helps hype their case.
4 posted on 01/17/2003 7:01:07 AM PST by umgud
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To: choosetheright
This dealer can't account for how 200+ guns got out of the store. If I was Bushmaster, I think I'd be slamming the dealer and ATF for not catching it sooner. I don't think I'd be saying the dealer is a "good customer" and I'm still happy to sell to them.

10-4. I can't imagine Bushmaster wants to take the position that a dealer who can't keep track of its own inventory is a "good customer." That comment is surprising, but it also may have been "interpreted" by the reporter. The article has an anti-gun slant to it IMO.

5 posted on 01/17/2003 7:10:09 AM PST by toddst
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To: choosetheright
I agree.If Bulls-Eye's paper work is that sloppy,then it was up to "The Jack-Booted Thugs At The ATF"(not my words,John Dingle's words,D.MI)to revoke the license.Bushmaster didn't issue the license and must,therefor,sell to federally-licensed dealers.We know why The Grabbers are after Bushmaster,don't we???
6 posted on 01/17/2003 7:12:22 AM PST by bandleader
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To: *bang_list
"More Brady Center BS" BANG!
7 posted on 01/17/2003 7:16:08 AM PST by xsrdx
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To: choosetheright
Do they make special sights for lawyers?
8 posted on 01/17/2003 7:17:54 AM PST by bert
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To: toddst
This dealer can't account for how 200+ guns got out of the store. If I was Bushmaster, I think I'd be slamming the dealer and ATF for not catching it sooner. I don't think I'd be saying the dealer is a "good customer" and I'm still happy to sell to them.

10-4. I can't imagine Bushmaster wants to take the position that a dealer who can't keep track of its own inventory is a "good customer." That comment is surprising, but it also may have been "interpreted" by the reporter. The article has an anti-gun slant to it IMO.

This assumes that Bushmaster KNEW before the sale that the dealer was having this problem. As far as I remember, this tidbit of info didn't come out until after the BATF had audited this dealer in conjunction with the sniper attacks.

Maybe I'm misremembering... can anyone provide a link to a story that proves BM knew beforehand?

9 posted on 01/17/2003 7:25:13 AM PST by cidrasm
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To: choosetheright
The suit contends Bushmaster acted irresponsibly by selling its rifles to Bull's Eye Shooter Supply of Tacoma despite prior government audits that showed the store could not account for hundreds of guns.

ATF is at fault...why did they not yank this guy's license when they found he could not account for weapons in his possession?

10 posted on 01/17/2003 7:30:05 AM PST by ravingnutter
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To: cidrasm
Maybe I'm misremembering... can anyone provide a link to a story that proves BM knew beforehand?

I know that it is possible to order a firearm from Bushmaster and have it delivered to a specific FFL, but does anyone know if Bushmaster generally sells to wholesalers which in turn take orders from retail dealers?

Just curious if the company is one step removed from the dealer, as is often the case. Smaller manufacturers usually sell directly to gun dealers, but Bushmaster is not a small company anymore.

More specifically, did *that* rifle come directly from Bushmaster to the dealer, or did it take a more circuitous route? Inquiring minds, and all that.

11 posted on 01/17/2003 7:39:37 AM PST by Charles Martel
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To: bert
Do they make special sights for lawyers?

Are we changing the subject to varmint rifles? : )

12 posted on 01/17/2003 8:30:14 AM PST by TigersEye (Not one scazzottata - but a pestaggio to blood.)
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To: choosetheright
"This dealer can't account for how 200+ guns got out of the store."

Perhaps you'd like for some independent agency to keep track of gun sales?
BATF, for example?

13 posted on 01/17/2003 8:39:55 AM PST by Redbob
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To: choosetheright
Bushmaster Lawsuit Petition
14 posted on 01/17/2003 8:42:53 AM PST by Yehuda (http://www.JewPoint.blogspot.com)
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To: choosetheright
Why isn't the "Nation of Islam" being sued?
15 posted on 01/17/2003 8:51:44 AM PST by sheik yerbouty
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I wonder how long we're going to wait before we Sue the damn Gun Grabbers for trying to violate our Constitutional Rights by subterfuge.

It's time we treated these jerks the way they treat us.
16 posted on 01/17/2003 8:55:03 AM PST by Leatherneck_MT
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To: cidrasm
This assumes that Bushmaster KNEW before the sale that the dealer was having this problem.

As I read their statement Bushmaster is saying it still would sell to this specific dealer. That seems to me isn't a good idea to say - or do, for that matter.

17 posted on 01/17/2003 10:32:16 AM PST by toddst
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To: choosetheright
"The suit contends Bushmaster acted irresponsibly by selling its rifles to Bull's Eye Shooter Supply of Tacoma despite prior government audits that showed the store could not account for hundreds of guns."

Then blame the bleedin' government, not an innocent seller who reasonably relies on the government jackboots to deal with violations of the law.

18 posted on 01/17/2003 11:17:42 AM PST by Atlas Sneezed
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To: umgud
I have no doubt these idiots would have sued even if the shooters used a hunting rifle. The fact that it is a so-called assault weapon helps hype their case.

Well yes they might have wanted to sue. But I doubt that Brady Campaign would be helping if instead of an "assault rifle", it was a genuine "sniper rifle", (say a scope-sighted, bolt-action Remington .30-06)

19 posted on 01/17/2003 3:25:31 PM PST by Oztrich Boy
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To: Oztrich Boy
Model 700 BDL? Very good in '06.
20 posted on 01/17/2003 3:44:30 PM PST by umgud
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To: umgud
You'll have to ask Sarah, she bought it

SAP Awards

21 posted on 01/17/2003 4:07:37 PM PST by Oztrich Boy
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