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Gun Violence Settlements Become Common As Reform Debate Goes On

As families of gun violence victims have been unable to get much new gun control, they are successful in court. Victims of the 2017 Sutherland Springs, Tx., shooting settled with the Department of Justice for $144.5 million on Wednesday. It was the latest multimillion-dollar settlement for families as mass shootings are increasing, according to Axios. The Nashville school shooting last week reignited the gridlocked debate between Democrats and Republicans around a federal assault weapons ban. The back-and-forth hasn't led to reform, a reality that has dominated issues surrounding gun violence for over a decade. Kristina Infante, the lead attorney for the Parkland, Fla., school shooting families, said the idea of compensatory justice is to compensate those who have suffered harm due to negligence. “In some sense, this is an impossible task because no amount of compensation can give these families the lives they would have had if tragedy had not occurred," she said. In these cases, Infante said, "the entities involved – such as police departments, school administrations, social media platforms, gun manufacturers – benefit from protections in the law which are not afforded to ordinary citizens."

The goal, according to Philip Bangle of Brady, a nonprofit fighting gun violence, is to make it more profitable for the gun manufacturers, who often are defendants, to implement change rather than to pay out lofty settlements. "The whole point of monetary settlements is to lead to reform," he explained. California Gov. Gavin Newsom last year signed a bill that allows victims to sue gun manufacturers. "Our kids, families, and communities deserve streets free of gun violence and gun makers must be held accountable for their role in this crisis," he said. "Nearly every industry is held liable when people are hurt or killed by their products – guns should be no different." The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the gun industry’s trade association, is challenging state laws that allow gun manufacturers, sellers, and distributors to be sued in such cases. The foundation's Mark Oliva said that under the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, neither the gun industry nor the manufacturer can be sued for the criminal misuse of a lawful product. “The whole idea is to attempt to bankrupt the industry, to put them out of business, to force gun control through court action, rather than through policy debate and legislative action," he said.


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