Bushmaster Firearms Inc. of Windham, Maine, has agreed to pay $550,000 and Bull’s Eye Shooter Supply of Tacoma, Wash. has agreed to pay $2 million to settle families’ lawsuits over the 2002 D.C. sniper shootings (see Jul. 1, 2003). Dennis Henigan of the gun-control-through-litigation Brady Campaign was the lawyer representing the families. “Authorities believe that Malvo shoplifted the rifle from Bull’s Eye, where he and Muhammad had been seen checking out the Bushmaster that later disappeared.” The Bradyites’ theory was that the killings were the gun store’s fault because it lost too many guns, and the manufacturer’s fault because it did not cut off the gun store for losing too many guns. Henigan crowed that the settlement represented the first-ever payment by a manufacturer over charges of negligent distribution and the biggest-ever payment by a distributor. (Tom Jackman, “Gunmaker, Store Agree To Payout in Sniper Case”, Washington Post, Sept. 10). I’m quoted in a subscriber-only BestWire article discussing the implications of the settlement (“Bushmaster Settlement Raises New Liability Questions for Gun Makers”, BestWire, Sept. 13)($). Jeff Soyer also comments (Sept. 10).
Both companies’ contribution to the settlement will apparently come from liability insurance proceeds. Reports the Portland, Me. paper (David Hench, “Gun firm settles in sniper lawsuit”, Portland Press Herald, Sept. 10):
In explaining its decision to settle, Bushmaster said half of its policy limits had already been spent on defending the legal case, and the insurance company believed defending the case would exhaust the money available for coverage.
“The balance of the insurance policy not spent on legal fees, approximately $550,000, will go to the victims’ families for their grief,” said the company’s chairman, Richard E. Dyke.
“Bushmaster strongly believes and vigorously supports the rights of citizens to own and use firearms, and the settlement of this case in no way compromises that stand,” the company said in its release. “The Brady Group’s . . . attempt to eliminate gun rights of citizens has failed legislatively and will continue to fail with these frivolous lawsuits against gun manufacturers.”
But with the decision costing the company’s insurer $1 million, insurers could pressure Bushmaster and other gun manufacturers to make changes.
The legal assault on the firearms industry is richly funded by George Soros, among others; if you’d like to make a contribution to combat such suits there are several legal defense funds working on behalf of companies that get sued, including the National Shooting Sports Foundation‘s Hunting and Shooting Sports Heritage Fund, which allows you to earmark your contribution specifically for legal defense.