CT high court allows Sandy Hook lawsuit against rifle maker

Lester Mason
March 16, 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.

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".

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

The dissenting justices argued that the majority was misreading the federal shield law in this "national question of first impression", the Washington Post reported.

WikipediaToday the Connecticut Supreme Court revived a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the rifle used in the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, the company that distributed the gun, and the store that sold it to the perpetrator's mother.

The plaintiffs argued that Remington, in selling the Bushmaster rifle, "negligently entrusted to civilian consumers an assault rifle that is suitable for use only by military and law enforcement personnel".

In its decision Thursday, the court said state unfair-trade-practices law allows anyone who's suffered a financial loss from such activities to sue - "regardless of whether they had a business relationship with the person or entity that engaged in the prohibited practice".

The 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, or PLCAA, has provided the USA firearms industry an nearly impenetrable defense against lawsuits by victims of mass shootings and gun violence, broadly shielding Remington and others such as American Outdoor Brands Corp, Sturm Ruger & Co and Vista Outdoor Inc from liability.

The trade association for the firearms industry called the ruling a disappointment.

The decision was hailed by the lawyers for the plaintiffs as "a crucial step" towards exposing "Remington's calculated and profit-driven strategy to expend the AR-15 market...at the expense of Americans' safety". "We wanted our day in court".

FILE - In this January 28, 2013, file photo, firearms training unit Detective Barbara J. Mattson, of the Connecticut State Police, holds a Bushmaster AR-15 rifle, the same make and model used by Adam Lanza in the 2012 Sandy Hook School shooting, during a hearing at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, Conn.

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. Several groups, ranging from the NRA to emergency room doctors, submitted briefs to the court.

A lower court judge had dismissed the lawsuit filed by Hockley and other parents, citing a 2005 federal law that shields gun manufacturers from liability when their products are used in crimes.

Robert J. Spitzer, chairman of political science at the State University of NY at Cortland and an expert on guns and the Second Amendment, said the CT ruling runs counter to the 2005 federal law. It wasn't immediately clear whether Remington will ask the state court to reconsider or appeal to the US Supreme Court.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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