By DANIEL RIVERO
The families of two students who were killed in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland have filed a lawsuit in Florida against American Outdoor Brands and Sunrise Tactical Supply, the manufacturer and vendor of the firearm that killed their children.
The suit is being brought by the families of Jamie Guttenburg, 14, and Alex Schachter, 14, who both died in the tragedy.
Attorneys describe the suit as a “first step” that could allow the families to pursue further legal actions against the companies. The suit calls for the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit in Broward County to declare that a law designed to shield gun manufacturers and dealers does not apply to individual plaintiffs, but only government entities.
Per the state law, signed by former Governor Jeb Bush, those who sue gun manufacturers or vendors could be liable for attorneys fees and also lost income of the companies that they sue. In the case of the American Outdoor Brands, who pulls in hundreds of millions of dollars of annual revenue, that lost income could add up to millions of dollars that the families could be held liable for.
“The purpose of this lawsuit is to prevent the Guttenberg and Schachter families from suffering financial ruin due to a provision in this state statute that seems to threaten that,” says attorney Stephen Rosenthal.
“That is not a financial risk the Guttenburgs and Schachter [sic] can, or should have to afford,” reads the suit.
In the case that the court agrees with the family’s interpretation that the law does not apply to individuals, the families will pursue further legal actions against the companies.
“They had to know that this was going to end up in the hands of people who aren’t just pure hobbyists. They had to know that. Well, now we need to have them fix that,” says Fred Guttenburg, one of the plaintiffs.
He argued that gun manufacturers and vendors are considered a “protected class” according to state and federal laws. The federal law Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act similarly protects gun companies from being held liable when crimes are committed with their products. This suit is the beginning effort of Parkland families’ legal strategy to challenge those laws.
“The protections that they receive from our government on both a state and national level are unlike anything else,” says Guttenburg.
The legal team will be meeting with other families in hopes of expanding the lawsuit to include them.