Did the Brady Campaign Explain the Risks? Why Aren’t They Paying Up?

Court Gavel

Mother Jones has an article about the Phillips suit against Lucky Gunner, et al over selling the Aurora killer ammunition. Mrs. Phillips notes:

Working for the Brady Campaign became a flurry of media appearances and meetings with politicians, police, and survivors. The Brady leadership also encouraged Lonnie and me to sue Lucky Gunner, the dealer that sold the stockpile of ammo to Jessi’s killer. We agreed that dealers should have to take some responsibility. Shouldn’t they have to vet a buyer of military-grade weaponry? Or a buyer of bullets en masse? The primary goal of our lawsuit was to make the gun dealer change its business practices—at a minimum, to ask for proof of identity and do a background check.

The PLCAA does not exempt suits for negligence per se, which means that if Lucky Gunner violated the law, they can be liable despite the PLCAA protections. This is exactly the kind of lawsuit PLCAA was meant to stop: roughly the equivalent of suing a gas station that sold a tank of gas to a drunk. Lucky Gunner broke no law. They did not have any idea what the killer intended, just as no gas station could possibly know someone filling up is a drunk who might later that day get tanked and plough into a van with kids. The Aurora killer was not a prohibited person, because despite being out of his gourd, he never came in contact with the mental health system to become prohibited. He purchased his firearm legally after passing a background check.

Today, after nearly five years of activism, Lonnie and I continue to struggle. We filed for Chapter 11 protection in January because we could not afford to pay the legal fees for Lucky Gunner.

I’ll assume here that she means Chapter 13 protection, because that would be the typical filing for this kind of personal bankruptcy. But I think it’s terrible that she’s having to apply for personal bankruptcy when it’s the Brady Campaign that encouraged her and her husband to file a frivolous that was doomed the failure, and where the statute allows recovery of attorneys fees for such suits deemed frivolous. They should have warned them, and been ready to pay up when the inevitable happened. Sounds to me like they might have a pretty good case against the Brady Campaign and its lawyers!

47 thoughts on “Did the Brady Campaign Explain the Risks? Why Aren’t They Paying Up?”

  1. “But I think it’s terrible that she’s having to apply for personal bankruptcy when it’s the Brady Campaign that encouraged her and her husband…”

    Indeed, Brady hung them out to dry.

      1. Not even that, she was a Brady Employee at the time of the lawsuit and she has always been very open of her intentions.


        Also this is the exact strategy PLACAA was implemented to stop. Brady filed a baseless lawsuit on the cheap, Lucky Gunner had to mobilize large amounts of funds to fight this, then Brady walks away when they knew they were going to lose, leaving the Phillips holding the bag.

        This was a successful op! They were out a few grand, and Lucky Gunner is out almost half a million.

        A few more like that and lucky gunner is done for, they don’t even need to win a single one.

        1. Very interesting. So in a sense this failed lawsuit was a successful economic kamikaze mission. The question is, can the anti-gunners recruit any more kamikaze pilots to continue the campaign?

          1. “can the anti-gunners recruit any more kamikaze pilots to continue the campaign?”
            maybe not if we the gun lobby publicize effectively.

  2. I have little sympathy for folks who push frivolous lawsuits (Brady) or for suckers who sign on the frivolous lawsuits (Phillips). Both parties are in the wrong and it’s good Lucky Gunner was awarded fees. And if this exposes the Brady Campaign for what they really are, all the better.

  3. There is a bit of… symmetry to people who were part of a plan to scare people into doing what Brady Campaign wanted via legal hassle and expenses, having to go through bankruptcy procedures /due/ to the legal expenses of said attempt.

  4. Brady did hang them out to dry.
    but she also acts as if there was no choice in her decision to file the lawsuit, to be “thrust” into this activism.

  5. I think this was the plan by Brady the whole time. It provided them insulation and shielding because if they had actually supplied lawyers and taken an active role their assets would be consumed in paying the legal fees. At the same time it consumed money and resources of Lucky Gunner that they most likely will never recoup. To the Brady Campaign that’s a win.

    Honestly if they were smart the family would go after the Brady Campaign for destroying them financially and knowing this was going to be the outcome but they wont.

      1. And fascists have the greater wisdom, to never call things by their right names. ;-)

    1. I can’t help but wonder if Lucky Gunner themselves have standing to go after the Brady Campaign for encouraging this couple to sue. If so, then perhaps the Brady Campaign can still be held liable for at least some of the costs of the litigation…

      1. “I can’t help but wonder if Lucky Gunner themselves have standing to go after the Brady Campaign…”

        That would be a question for the attorneys and ultimately decided by the court.

        Playing jailhouse lawyer I could argue that it would be a plausible claim, based on there being little expectation of collecting from the Philips. But on an equally weak knowledge base, I’d suggest that unless Lucky Gunner named the Brady Campaign in their initial suit, they’ve blown it, and can’t go back to the well after the fact.

  6. Sometimes individuals file for Chapter 11 because they don’t meet the limitations of Chapter 13 which include a maximum total of debts. Last I looked, the maximum unsecured debts in a CH13 was just south of 400K dollars.

    1. So LuckyGunner is going to get in line with all their other debtors and get some portion of their net worth.

      “But even if we could afford the gun dealer’s legal fees, we would never pay.”

      Guess what? You will be paying and now the court will be supervising. This woman is a moron who thinks declaring bankruptcy means you don’t have to pay your debts and you get to keep your stuff.

    2. As of April 1, 2016 the unsecured debt limit in a Chapter 13 is $394,725.

      Lucky Gunner’s legal fees alone make them ineligible for a 13, and I’m assuming their income and other debt characterization* disqualifies them from a Chapter 7, so a Chapter 11 was probably their only option to prevent Lucky Gunner from either garnishing or executing on their property (which it was of course entitled to do).

      They’ll have to set up a special bank account and provide monthly reports to the United States Trustee in addition to making monthly payments. Lucky Gunner will probably still get shafted (unsecured creditors usually do, regardless of the chapter), but Chapter 11s are the most expensive of the chapters for the debtor, and as a fellow debtors counsel, I hope the Phillipses’ attorney bills them for everything he possibly can.

      *Bankruptcy is means-tested, and above median income debtors generally only qualify to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy if their debt is not predominantly consumer debt. The debt owed to Lucky Gunner’s debt is not consumer debt, as it is a judgment, but with big enough house and car notes, and enough credit cards and other debts, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that they wouldn’t qualify for a Chapter 7. Most above median income debtors that qualify to file Chapter 7 bankruptcies qualify because their debts are the result of a failed business (and therefore are not predominantly consumer debt).

  7. “Sounds to me like they might have a pretty good case against the Brady Campaign and its lawyers!”

    Yeah, I can just hear a judge saying “If your friends told you to jump off a bridge, would that mean you had to do it?”

    1. If the friend is a doctor, declares himself as such, and then tells you why medically it will all be fine and you’ll be able to walk away from it with the outcome you want – alive and uninjured – then why isn’t the doctor responsible for holding the person’s hand, leading them to the bridge, and encouraging the jump while promising that as an expert sanctioned by the state, they’ll be okay?

      In this case, we don’t know exactly what the Brady Campaign told her behind closed doors or which staff members did it. However, if any of the attorneys encouraged it and did not disclose clearly what risks she was taking if she wasn’t successful, then that’s a reasonable lawsuit against the Brady folks either as a group or possibly against the relevant individuals – more reasonable than the LG lawsuit, certainly. I’m going to guess that since the BC didn’t represent her themselves, they knew not to say so much in a way that could be proven that they could either be sued or have complaints filed against their attorneys with the relevant bar associations.

      1. You’ve raised a good point with your example of a doctor. There actually are many cases (an attorney friend has told me) where the question is the level of the expertise of the person(s) who advised someone to (figuratively speaking) jump off a bridge. It is one reason doctors are reticent about advising people to do anything other than “see a doctor” when someone asks them for advice in casual conversation.

        E.g., I was advised I could probably sue the guy who sold us our house, because he was a realtor himself; our complaints were pretty much run-of-the-mill stuff involving concealed faults, that would normally go nowhere in a civil suit, but that the seller was a realtor made him more liable regarding such issues.

        We didn’t sue, because it was all two-bit stuff, but I’ve always remembered it as an example of the legal principle.

        On the other hand, attorneys often give people bad legal advice, to make work, and they seem largely to get away with it.

  8. Am I forgetting history, or weren’t the Phillips’ Brady activists or employees before they filed suit? I am not surprised that they got thrown under the (short) bus, because it seems that there is NO downward loyalty in Corporate America anymore. That being said, I do not feel sad for them about the restitution, although I do regret the passing of their child.

  9. Part of me feels for the parents that lost a child to a nutjob whose doctors didn’t care to properly do their job. Part of me says “Serves you right for letting your loss be used on the altar of a political agenda”, because this suit wasn’t about ‘justice’ but ‘lawfare’ where the lawyers – usually – make a tidy sum and the people with the agenda use ‘the process is the punishment’ to get pre-trial settlements to bankrupt legal and law abiding businesses simply for that political agenda.

    Then my sympathic feels go out the door when I read completely opposite statements.

    My husband and I respect the Second Amendment. We are longtime gun owners, who for 30 years made our home in Texas. We have no interest in taking away everyone’s guns, as the National Rifle Association and other fearmongers like to claim.
    However, we believe our nation’s laws can be vastly improved to save lives.
    Like most Americans, we want to see background checks on all gun sales.
    We want to see loopholes closed.
    We want to see limits on the type of gun[s] and the amount of ammunition that can be sold to an individual.


    “This spring, we traveled to Congress to testify against President Donald Trump’s ardently pro-gun Supreme Court pick, Justice Neil Gorsuch.

    They’re no more ‘pro second amendment’ than the Man In The Moon.
    My advice to LuckyGunner is to go after them in that bankruptcy proceeding for their court ordered reimbursement.

    1. “We are longtime gun owners, who for 30 years made our home in Texas. We have no interest in taking away everyone’s guns, as the National Rifle Association and other fearmongers like to claim.”
      what Mr Limbaugh calls ‘seminar callers’

  10. Thankfully the attempt to use the lawfare to destroy gun dealers as a route to destroy our right to enjoy the 2 A was anticipated and and prevented by this law

    I have no sympathy for these parents as they attempted to destroy our ability to buy ammo

  11. You have the Sandy Phillips in print thumbing her nose at the judge and stating that she and her husband do not intend to pay any legal fees. Unreal.

    1. But if LG refused to pay had they lost, you know the anti’s would be screaming to the rafters about how gun nuts hate the law and courts.

    2. Not being a lawyer, nor having any real knowledge of bankruptcy law, I almost think this should be able to get the bankruptcy protections lifted. Presumably you file and the courts reasonably assume that you’d make a good faith effort to pay your bills, but you just don’t have the means. If you found a winning lotto ticket on the sidewalk, you’d pay them and move on. But this statement that they never had any intention to abide by a court order to pay, that’s not good faith. That shows that even if they have the means, they’ll refuse. I don’t know if it’s possible to lift the protections and tell them to go negotiate with creditors themselves, but damn, that statement made me think it needs to happen.

      1. “But this statement that they never had any intention to abide by a court order to pay, that’s not good faith. That shows that even if they have the means, they’ll refuse.”

        Maybe they went to Trump University?

  12. It would be great fun to watch blue on blue lawfare but don’t count on it. The couple is fully integrated in leftist politics.

  13. What I can’t fathom is the stupidity of the commenters over there looking for “background checks on ammunition”, or at least large purchases. I understand many just want to strangle gun ownership, and know it won’t work.

    But how can the rest of them not see it wouldn’t have made any difference? How is it they can’t understand that if he passes the check for the guns, he’s going to pass it for the ammunition too?

    Truly, gun control is utterlying unthinking.

    1. No, it is not unthinking. They know exactly what they are doing. It is simply evil people seeking another level of control.

  14. “Truly, gun control is utterly unthinking”

    To expand on that a bit, this is probably over-generalizing, but the people who support gun control, could probably recite chapter and verse about how and why laws attempting to control illegal drugs are routinely circumvented. They can apply the logic in one direction for one issue, but not see it applying to another issue. Contraband always results in brisk markets.

    (I could probably fabricate every component of ammunition except the cases and the primers; and historically I recall reading about how even primers were “reloaded” in the day.)

    1. Use a cap and ball revolver and go “caseless”. A bullet with a Pyrodex or TripleSeven pellet glued to the back makes for quick reloading, and in some cases you can carry pre-loaded cylinders and swap them in and out quickly. Get an old Forster “Tap-O-Cap” tool and you can make your own caps.

  15. From what I understand, if a person is above a certain income level (maybe median income levels for the area) they are required to file in chapter 11. not 13. The trustee then runs their economic life, getting whatever they can to the creditors, for five years or so, and then they are discharged.

    1. Ah… OK…. I didn’t know that. Are there any ethical issues that the Brady lawyers could face for going forward with a sure loser of a case that bankrupted their client?

  16. Yes, some obvious ethical issues (and legal malpractice liability). Any honest advice would have had to be something like, “chances of winning are very law, maybe we’ll get lucky, it could happen, but odds are well below 50-50. And if we lose you’ll surely be tagged for legal fees, which will be at least in the tens of thousands and probably more. Now, we’ll take this case on if you are willing to run those risks. Your choice.”

    I’d bet Brady didn’t even know about the local law on attorneys’ fees. For them it was a crusade, and crusaders don’t worry about details or local law. Or consider much the risk of loss.

    1. “I’d bet Brady didn’t even know about the local law on attorneys’ fees…”

      “Local law” probably also affects the question of Chapter 11 versus Chapter 13. At least, to the level of state law.

  17. “Or a buyer of bullets en masse”

    I will never get tired of making fun of how they think “stockpiles” of ammunition, beyond what a person can trivially carry, are Somehow Super Scary And Dan’jrous Signs Of Trouble.

    10,000 rounds of ammunition aren’t more dangerous than 100, if Mr. Badman leaves them at home.

    1. Exactly right!

      The Aurora killer fired what, 70 shots?

      If the gun-control advocates were serious (or halfway logical) about preventing mass shootings by restricting public ownership of weapons, they would be proposing banning ownership of more than five rounds of ammunition at a time.

    1. “I was expecting an anti-gun group to act honorably!”

      I’m tempted to tell some old stories about how “honorably” people on the right, including gun groups, acted in my experience, but I’ll forebear, because saying even as much as I have now will piss everyone off.

      So, suffice it to say, no one gives away free money unless they have a self-serving motive for doing it. Which of course means it’s not really free.

      Anyone who thinks their ideological faction doesn’t use useful idiots, needs to grow up — or maybe not, because delusion brings so much more short-term happiness. It’s the waking up that becomes painful.

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