Sandy Hook school massacre victims' can sue gun-maker, court rules

Leroy Wright
March 15, 2019

Adam Lanza, 20, used a Remington AR-15 Bushmaster rifle, a semi-automatic civilian version of the USA military's M-16, to kill 20 children between the ages of 6 and 7, as well as six adult staff members, at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012.

The court ruled that, even though the US Congress passed a law in 2005 that explicitly immunized gunmakers when their products are used in crimes, Remington could still be sued on the grounds that its marketing violated Connecticut's unfair trade practice laws.

The plaintiffs in CT include a survivor and relatives of nine people killed in the massacre.

The lawsuit claims Remington's marketing "glorified" the AR-15 Bushmaster rifle using slogans such as "consider your man card reissued", in a direct appeal to troubled young men like Adam Lanza.

The lawsuit, which was filed in 2015, was dismissed in 2016 by a lower court, ruling that gunmakers have broad immunity from liability under a federal law known as PLCAA, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.

[The Sandy Hook attacker] carried out this massacre using a Bushmaster XM15-E2S semiautomatic rifle that was allegedly manufactured, distributed, and ultimately sold to [his] mother by the various defendants in this case.

Justices are split on the question as the court is scheduled to release majority and dissenting opinions Thursday.

The plaintiffs argue that the gun-maker "attract [ed] buyers by extolling the militaristic and assaultive qualities of their AR-15 rifles" by "advertising that the most elite branches of the military - including Special Forces, SEALs, Green Berets, and Army Rangers - have used them".

At the heart of the argument was the extent of a federal law shielding firearm manufacturers from liability when illegal activity is conducted with their products.

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Lanza, 20, shot his way into the locked school in Newtown on December 14, 2012, and killed 20 first-graders and six educators with a Bushmaster XM15-E2S rifle, similar to an AR-15.

Connecticut's child advocate said Lanza's severe and deteriorating mental health problems, his preoccupation with violence and access to his mother's legal weapons "proved a recipe for mass murder".

"The families' goal has always been to shed light on Remington's calculated and profit-driven strategy to expand the AR-15 market and court high-risk users, all at the expense of Americans' safety", Joshua Koskoff, an attorney for the Plaintiffs said Thursday, according to USA Today.

The Connecticut high court disagreed.

A 2005 federal law that was a high priority for the National Rifle Association and the gun lobby generally greatly restricts suits holding manufacturers and dealers liable for the death and injury caused by guns.

The lawsuit seeks undisclosed damages.

"The likelihood they'll succeed is small", he said. On Dec. 14, 2012, 20 children and six educators were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Still, allowing the lawsuit to move forward means that there will be an opportunity for discovery that would unearth company documents that could be embarrassing for Remington.

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