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Which Parties Can Be Held Legally & Financially Responsible After a Mass Shooting?

America in the Aftermath

Americans were devastated and terrified after 31 people were killed in two separate mass shootings last week. While the topic of gun control reform can be polarizing, it’s impossible to deny that gun crimes are an issue in our country. According to Mother Jones, there have been over 110 domestic terrorist shootings in the United States since 1982, an alarming number that far surpasses any other developed country in the world.

People are understandably scared. Following last weeks’ attacks, there have been multiple false alarms across the country triggered by anxiety and fear. In New York City, a backfiring motorcycle engine sent hundreds of people fleeing away from Times Square. As Bobby Allyn, a reporter with NPR, explains, “To some experts who research the psychological impact of mass shootings, the two episodes have a connection: They both reveal the panicked reactions of a nation on edge, with many people still reeling from the mass violence, which has anxieties running high.”

In interviews, the survivors of domestic terrorism usually exclaim, “I never thought it would happen here.” But what happens when it does? What justice can the surviving family members pursue? And what legal options does a survivor with medical bills have?

Identifying a Negligent Party

Victims of overseas terrorist attacks are protected by federal laws that allow them to sue terrorist organizations and foreign powers. A Strangely, the same protections aren’t granted to victims of domestic terrorist attacks. When a mass shooting occurs, the victims need to work with creative legal representatives to hold the at-fault parties responsible for their injuries and losses.

The shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio have sparked aggressive questions and debates about the questionable liability issues surrounding gun crimes in America. In the past, survivors have struggled to hold parties outside of the shooter accountable for these tragic events.

Victims and surviving family members have filed lawsuits – both successful and unsuccessful – against the following entities after a mass shooting:

  • The perpetrator
  • The city
  • Gun manufacturers
  • Gun sellers
  • The perpetrator’s parents (if a minor, and depending on your state)
  • Social media platforms (for hosting and facilitating hate speech)
  • School districts (for failing to protect students)
  • Organizations (for promoting violence)
  • Property owners (where the incident occurred)
  • Business owners (where the incident occurred)
  • Law enforcement agencies (for failing to stop a shooter)

Victims of mass shootings tend to face an uphill battle when it comes to civil litigation. In 2005, a Republican Congress passed a law – the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) – that protects gun companies from liability. While there are a few narrow exceptions where a mass shooting is concerned, most cases are dismissed based on the principles of this law. In fact, the PLCAA grants gun manufacturers more rights and protections from lawsuits than any other consumer product-makers. As an example: The survivors of the 2016 Pulse shooting in Orlando Florida filed claims against Google and various social media platforms for facilitating hate speech. However, the judge dismissed these complaints because of current gun laws.

Sadly, most Americans have no idea of the many state and federal laws that give these corporations total or near-total immunity in negligence cases. In some cases, an attorney may be able to represent clients under a legal theory known as negligent security. Under this legal definition, a business can be held liable if the lawyer can prove a crime was foreseeable based on the location and a previous history of criminal activity.

Discuss Your Legal Rights with a Legal Professional

We hope that you never have to personally experience a tragedy like El Paso or Dayton. However, if you ever do need representation for a loss or injury involving a firearm, please contact the gun injury lawyers at Pratt Clay, LLC. Our mission, as a personal injury firm, is to help the victims and families who require legal assistance after an accident or wrongful act.

Call Pratt Clay, LLC at (404) 998-5258 to schedule a free, no-risk consultation.