Sandy Hook Massacre Gun Maker Can Be Sued, Court Rules

Elias Hubbard
March 15, 2019

Connecticut's highest court has cleared the way for families of nine victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting to sue over the marketing of the semiautomatic rifle Adam Lanza used to kill. The high court agreed in part with a lower court's decision to dismiss certain claims (ones that challenge a 2005 federal law largely shielding gun makers and sellers from lawsuits after one of their products is used in a crime) but found that, due to a state law about unfair trade practices, the wrongful marketing claim can move forward, USA Today reports.

Instead, it would depend on the justices' interpretation of the broader legal question of whether federal courts should generally be allowed to interfere in state law, experts said.

Remington, based in Madison, North Carolina, has denied wrongdoing and previously insisted it can't be sued because of the 2005 law, called the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.

Remington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Lanza used a Bushmaster XM15-E2S rifle during the shooting, which the plaintiffs argue is a similar weapon to the AR-15.

In a mass shooting that rocked the United States shortly before Christmas of 2012, a 20-year-old gunman killed 20 school children aged 6 and 7 in addition to six adult staff, using a Remington AR-15 Bushmaster rifle, a semi-automatic civilian version of the US military's M-16.

The court said PLCAA did not bar wrongful marketing claims and unethical advertising of unsafe products for illegal purposes and that plaintiffs could pursue those claims under state law.

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".

James Vogts, a lawyer for Remington, has cited the 2005 federal law and previously said the Bushmaster rifle is a legal firearm used by millions of people for hunting, self-defense and target shooting. "Today's decision is a critical step toward achieving that goal", Koskoff said.

Military-style rifles have been used in many other mass shootings, including in Las Vegas in October 2017 when 58 people were killed and hundreds more injured.

CNN has reached out to Remington and Camfour, a gun distributor named in the case, for comment and has not received a response. Several groups, ranging from the National Rifle Association to emergency room doctors, submitted briefs to the court. Since Sandy Hook and subsequent school shootings, most federal efforts at gun control or gun rights expansion have faded and the bulk of firearms legislation has been in state legislatures across the country.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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