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Parkland families want to sue gun companies but could face financial ruin if they do.

BY COLLEEN WRIGHT

cawright@miamiherald.com

Fred Guttenberg looked over his shoulder at the poster behind him. There was Jaime, his forever 14-year-old daughter, leaping into a split in her ballet leotard. In another photo, she posed with her father, grinning wide for the camera.

Jaime was among those 17 killed — another 17 were wounded — in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14. It was on behalf of her and all the victims and their families, that Guttenberg and the family of Alex Schachter, another 14-year-old student killed that day, said they filed a lawsuit to begin the process of suing gun manufacturers and firearm dealers.

The lawsuit filed in Broward County Circuit Court asks the court to rule that the families would not face potential financial ruin by bringing a lawsuit against American Outdoor Brands, the parent company of Smith & Wesson, which manufactured the M&P15 semi-automatic rifle that alleged shooter Nikolas Cruz used in the massacre, and Sunrise Tactical Supply in Coral Springs, which sold the weapon to Cruz.

Florida law specifically prohibits legal action against the gun industry, including firearms or ammunition manufacturers, firearms trade associations, firearms or ammunition distributors or firearms or ammunition dealers because their products were unlawfully used. The statute, as it reads now, could make those companies immune to all lawsuits and leave the Guttenbergs and Schachters liable for all attorney’s fees, costs and compensation for loss of income, saddling them with a fortune in legal costs.