Sandy and Lonnie Phillips talk with Rachel Maddow about challenging the legality of online weapons and ammunition sales like the ones that supplied their daughter's killer.
July 30, 2015

This story just frosts me every time I think about it. Sandy and Lonnie Phillips lost their daughter in the Aurora Theater massacre, mostly because the bullets pouring out of James Holmes' AR-15 were armor-piercing bullets, so the seats she crouched behind offered her no real protection.

Those armor-piercing bullets were sold to Holmes online with not so much as an identification check. When they filed a lawsuit knowing the law would not be on their side because the NRA has weakened gun laws to the point where they're toothless, they expected to have it tossed out. They also thought it possible they'd be held accountable for legal fees.

And they were.

U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch of Denver sided with the ammo dealers. Late last month, he ruled not only that the Phillipses’ case must be dismissed but also that Lucky Gunner and The Sportsman’s Guide are entitled to fees and costs. Even though Matsch’s decision apparently marks the first time that fees have been granted under Colorado’s law shielding gun and ammo dealers from liability, the judge didn’t provide any explanation of his reasoning.

On April 10, The Sportsman’s Guide moved for an award of about $73,000. Lucky Gunner requested about $152,000 to be awarded jointly against the Phillips family and their lawyers. (I first saw mention of the fees in a blog post at The Knowledge Effect by my Thomson Reuters colleague Melissa Sachs.) The Lucky Gunner’s fee application essentially said that the Phillipses’ case was political theater masterminded by the Brady Center. “Indeed, plaintiffs have also publicized their involvement with and employment by the Brady Center,” the brief said. (Lonnie Phillips’ Linked In profile says he is manager in one of the center’s Texas chapters.) Those circumstances, according to Lucky Gunner, justify a fee award against the Phillipses and their counsel.

But don't get too angry yet. Watch this interview with Rachel Maddow, and witness the quiet dignity and absolute resolve these parents have.

The NRA is going to get a run for their money with these two. May they see their wish for changed laws to become true in their lifetimes.

Godspeed, Lonnie and Sandy Phillips. I wish you nothing but total success.

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