Mantis in Top Hat representing predatory politicians, corporations, policies

“The gun industry stole our daughter’s life and the gun industry immunity law bankrupted us. Senator Graham played a massive role in the blood-letting.” 

Lonnie Phillips

Survivors Of Gun Violence Demand Justice And An End to Firearm Industry Immunity

The killer used an AR-15. He shot our daughter six times. There was not enough of her left to put in a coffin. She was slaughtered along with 11 others in the Aurora Theater Shooting 12 years ago on July 20. Seventy others were wounded. One lost a leg, two are still in wheelchairs, one died by suicide, and one lost her six-year-old daughter and unborn baby.

The gun industry took our daughter’s life through reckless sales practices and irresponsible advertising. The ammunition seller, Lucky Gunner, could have stopped that killer in his tracks if they had used reasonable restrictions such as verifying his age. Lucky Gunner would go on to sell a 17-year-old male the ammunition he used in the 2018 Santa Fe High School shooting that stole 10 lives and injured 13 others.

The 2008 Supreme Court decision, District of Columbia v. Heller, held that the Second Amendment provides an individual right to possess firearms. The firearms industry does not, however, have a constitutional right to engage in irresponsible marketing and sales practices. 

We tried to stop those irresponsible business practices when we sued Lucky Gunner, not for money but for injunctive relief. We did not sue for criminal misuse of a gun. We sued for negligent entrustment. A judge dismissed our lawsuit for negligent entrustment on the first motion to dismiss, citing Colorado’s Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. He ordered us to pay the defendant’s attorneys $203,000 in fees and costs, forcing us into bankruptcy. We are now in our 70s and will never again be able to hold our daughter or retire.

In the summer of 2022, the Congressional Committee on Oversight and Reform completed its investigation of the five leading manufacturers of assault weapons. The committee concluded, “Congress must act to rein in the irresponsible business practices of the gun industry, prohibit the sale of dangerous weapons of war to civilians, and reassess the liability protections that prevent the American people from accessing the courts to hold gun manufacturers accountable for the deadly effects of their business decisions.”

At the January Senate Judiciary Committee hearings regarding social media, I watched Senator Lindsey Graham tell the president of Meta, Mark Zuckerberg, “You have blood on your hands. You have a company that makes a product that is killing people because of your inability to police your platform.” Lindsey Graham is right about social media having blood on its hands, but the firearms industry is awash in blood, and Senator Graham played a massive role in the blood-letting.

Twenty years ago, Senator Graham took the opposite view about the firearms industry immunity. Regurgitating NRA talking points on firearm industry immunity law, Graham said, “Passage of this legislation will end those frivolous lawsuits which are driving gun manufacturers out of business.” Congress passed the gun industry immunity bill and blocked an amendment to the law that would have allowed claims against grossly negligent sellers.

In January, Senator Graham upbraided Mr. Zuckerberg saying, “There is only one solution. Open the courthouse doors and let the victims sue you for the damage you caused. Until you do that, nothing will change, and holding you accountable in civil court is the only thing that will stop it.”

Where is Senator Graham’s outrage at the firearm deaths of thousands of children and teens? Where is his demand for justice for the survivors of gun violence? Will Senator Graham force Wayne LaPierre to apologize for the epidemic of gun violence our country is facing?

Firearms are now the leading cause of death for children and teens in the U.S. The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act has been law for 20 years and has been used to shut the courtroom doors and deny justice to victims like us. Ultimately, gun industry immunity left the door open for more firearm deaths because the industry was never forced to correct the gaping holes in the regulation of the firearm industry. 

In 2023, Colorado repealed its firearm industry immunity law with “Jessi’s Law,” named in honor of our daughter. We were thrilled to see that, but that doesn’t give us justice or bring back Jessi or the thousands of others who might have been saved if the firearms industry had been kept in regulatory check through legal action. 

We were forced into bankruptcy by a cruel and greedy law, but we continue our fight for justice for survivors and to repeal firearm industry immunity laws.

Lindsey Graham’s behavior clearly shows that he understands the importance of keeping industries in check by allowing those industries to be sued yet he protected the gun industry by playing a key role in the passage of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, the gun industry immunity law passed in 2005.

Today, we are telling the truth, calling out hypocrisy and demanding justice and parity.

Lonnie Phillips

Our Badge of Dishonor spotlights a prominent politician or pro-shooting activist who has “obfuscated the dire state of US gun violence and misled the country about the immediate need for clear and compelling solutions.”

For his bloodthirsty obedience to the arms industry, we give our first-ever Badge of Dishonor to Senator Lindsey Graham.

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