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A Year After Uvalde School Killings, Families Pursue Lawsuits

Updated: May 22, 2023

After Mayah Zamora was shot and wounded at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Tex.,, her family sued the store that sold the teenage gunman his AR-style rifle, the gun maker and police who waited 77 minutes outside Mayah’s fourth-grade classroom before stopping the shooting that killed 19 children and two teachers. “Mainly what we are looking for is some sort of justice,” said Christina Zamora, Mayah’s mother. Both the U.S. government and gun manufacturers have agreed to large settlements after some of the worst mass shootings, the Associated Press reports. In April, the Justice Department announced a $144 million settlement with relatives and families of a 2017 Texas church attack by a former U.S. airman with a criminal history. Relatives and victims of mass shootings say the lawsuits are an effort to get accountability and prevent more attacks — by forcing reforms, hurting the gun industry and strengthening background checks after lapses failed to stop gunmen from buying weapons. Despite two high-profile settlements in the last year involving gun manufacturers, and Democrat-led states rolling back some industry protections high hurdles remain for lawsuits to succeed and some hurdles are growing taller.

On May 11, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed a law that further shields gun manufacturers from lawsuits, weeks after a shooter at a Nashville school killed six people. Attorneys say the narrow path for victims to win lawsuits has begun to widen, including for families in Uvalde, who on Wednesday will mark one year since the deadliest school shooting in Texas history. “I think there are more opportunities for accountability than maybe there were five to 10 years ago,” said Eric Tirschwell of Everytown for Gun Safety, which has brought lawsuits against the gun industry. The track record for lawsuits over mass shootings is mixed. The gun industry remains largely protected from liability under the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. Courts have tossed numerous lawsuits, many of which did not target the gun industry but instead brought negligence claims against the government or the places where the attacks took place. In 2020, MGM Resorts International and its insurers agreed to an $800 million settlement over a shooting on the Las Vegas Strip that killed 58 people and injured hundreds more. Last year, the maker of the rifle used in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary shooting settled with families for $73 million in a lawsuit accusing Remington of targeting younger, at-risk males in marketing.


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