The parents of a woman killed in the Colorado theater shootings filed a lawsuit Tuesday accusing four online retailers of improperly selling ammunition, tear gas, a high-capacity magazine and body armor used in the attack.
The lawsuit alleges it was illegal and negligent to sell the gear to James Holmes, who is accused of killing 12 people and injuring 70 in the July 20, 2012, attack.
It says the companies had no safeguards to keep dangerous people from buying their goods.
“It was highly foreseeable to (the) defendants that their potential customers included persons with criminal intent, including persons such as James Holmes,” the lawsuit says.
The suit was filed by Sandy and Lonnie Phillips of San Antonio, whose daughter, Jessica Ghawi (GAH’-wee), was among the dead.
“We’re putting them on notice,” Lonnie Phillips said at a news conference in Denver. “We’re coming after you.”
The lawsuit renews the gun control debate in the courts at a time when advocates of tighter restrictions have been relatively quiet in state and national politics, wary of motivating gun-rights voters to turn out in greater numbers.
After Colorado passed gun control laws in 2013, voters ousted two lawmakers who supported the measures. A third resigned to avoid a possible recall.
Ghawi, 24, was an aspiring sports journalist who had moved from Texas a year earlier. Less than two months before her death, she had survived a shooting at a Toronto mall that left two people dead and several wounded.
Her parents are represented by attorneys for the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and two Denver lawyers.
Named as defendants in the case are Lucky Gunner of Knoxville, Tennessee, Bullet Proof Body Armor of Tempe, Arizona, BTP Arms of New Oxford, Pennsylvania, and the Sportsman’s Guide of South St. Paul, Minnesota. None of the companies immediately returned telephone messages seeking comment.
The lawsuit says Holmes bought at least 4,300 rounds of ammunition from Lucky Gunner’s website, bulkammo.com, and 700 rounds of ammunition and a 100-round magazine from the Sportsman’s Guide website.
It says Holmes bought two tear gas grenades from BTP Arms and four pieces of body armor from bulletproofbodyarmorhq.com.
The 100-round magazine was one factor that prompted Colorado in 2013 to ban the sale of magazines that hold more than 15 rounds. Investigators have said Holmes’ 100-round magazine jammed during the attack, preventing even more bloodshed.
Prosecutors said Holmes also bought two handguns, a shotgun, a semi-automatic rifle and other equipment from other retailers that are not named as defendants.
Dave Kopel, research director for the Independence Institute, a conservative-leaning Colorado think tank, said the suit will have a difficult time overcoming a federal law that protects the legal manufacture and sale of weapons and ammunition.
Previous lawsuits have attempted but failed to overturn the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, said Kopel, an attorney who represents 53 Colorado sheriffs trying to overturn Colorado’s 2013 gun laws. They are appealing a federal judge’s ruling against them.
Holmes pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to multiple counts of murder and attempted murder. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. His trial is scheduled to begin with jury selection on Dec. 8.
Holmes’ attorneys do not comment publicly because of a gag order issued by the judge in the criminal case against him.
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