Some rel­a­tives in a Sandy Hook case want a law­suit against a gun­maker re­in­stated.

Rel­a­tives of some vic­tims ask court to re­in­state wrong­ful death law­suit filed against Rem­ing­ton Arms

Houston Chronicle - - BUSINESS - By Dave Collins

HART­FORD, Conn. — Newtown school shooter Adam Lanza heard the mes­sage loud and clear when gun­maker Rem­ing­ton Arms mar­keted an AR-15-style ri­fle as an over­pow­er­ing weapon fa­vored by elite mil­i­tary forces, a lawyer for rel­a­tives of some vic­tims of the mas­sacre told the Connecticut Supreme Court on Tues­day.

Lanza, who killed 20 first-graders and six ed­u­ca­tors with a Bush­mas­ter XM15-E2S on Dec. 14, 2012, was ob­sessed with vi­o­lent video games, at­tor­ney Joshua Koskoff said.

Koskoff asked the high court to re­in­state a wrong­ful death law­suit against Madi­son, N.C.-based Rem­ing­ton. He said the Bush­mas­ter ri­fle and other AR-15-style firearms were de­signed as mil­i­tary killing ma­chines and are too dan­ger­ous for the pub­lic, but Rem­ing­ton glo­ri­fied them and mar­keted them to a younger de­mo­graphic that in­cluded the 20-yearold Lanza.

“Adam Lanza heard the mes­sage,” Koskoff told the jus­tices, whose de­ci­sion isn’t ex­pected for sev­eral months. “They mar­keted the weapon for ex­actly what it was. They used images of sol­diers in com­bat. They used slo­gans in­vok­ing bat­tle and high­pres­sure mis­sions.

“Rem­ing­ton may never have known Adam Lanza, but they had been court­ing him for years,” he said.

Other shoot­ings

Mil­i­tary-style ri­fles have been used in many other mass shoot­ings, in­clud­ing in Las Ve­gas last month and a church in Suther­land Springs ear­lier this month. They also were used in the Columbine High School and Aurora movie theater shoot­ings in Colorado.

The Connecticut case is be­ing watched by gun rights sup­port­ers and gun con­trol ad­vo­cates across the coun­try as one that could af­fect other cases ac­cus­ing gun­mak­ers of be­ing re­spon­si­ble for mass shoot­ings. Sev­eral groups, in­clud­ing the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion and emer­gency room doc­tors, submitted briefs to the court.

At is­sue is a 2005 fed­eral law that ex­empts gun­mak­ers from li­a­bil­ity when their prod­ucts are used in crimes and two ex­cep­tions to the law. A lower Connecticut court dis­missed the law­suit in 2015, cit­ing the fed­eral law named the Pro­tec­tion of Law­ful Com­merce in Arms Act. That led to the state Supreme Court ap­peal.

One ex­cep­tion al­lows law­suits al­leg­ing “neg­li­gent en­trust­ment”: when com­pa­nies pro­vide peo­ple with prod­ucts the com­pa­nies know, or should know, could be dan­ger­ous. The other al­lows law­suits al­leg­ing man­u­fac­tur­ers know­ingly vi­o­lated a state or fed­eral law that ap­plies to the sale or mar­ket­ing of firearms.

Other courts have cited the law in re­ject­ing law­suits against gun­mak­ers and deal­ers in some high­pro­file shoot­ing at­tacks, in­clud­ing the Colorado movie theater shoot­ing and the Wash­ing­ton, D.C., sniper shoot­ings.

The plain­tiffs in the Newtown case — a sur­vivor and rel­a­tives of nine peo­ple killed — sued Rem­ing­ton in 2015, cit­ing the neg­li­gent en­trust­ment ex­cep­tion and claim­ing the com­pany vi­o­lated a state law against un­fair sales and mar­ket­ing prac­tices.

Lanza’s mother, Nancy Lanza, legally bought the ri­fle and of­ten went to the shoot­ing range with her son, who had trou­bling men­tal health is­sues, au­thor­i­ties have said.

Adam Lanza fa­tally shot his mother at their Newtown home be­fore go­ing to Sandy Hook El­e­men­tary School, where he killed him­self as po­lice ar­rived.

James Vogts, a lawyer for Rem­ing­ton, told the court the Bush­mas­ter ri­fle is a le­gal firearm used by mil­lions of peo­ple for hunt­ing, self-de­fense and tar­get shoot­ing. He said the law­suit isn’t al­lowed un­der the fed­eral law.

“What hap­pened that morn­ing was hor­rific. It’s a tragedy that won’t be for­got­ten,” Vogts said. He added, “The law needs to be ap­plied dis­pas­sion­ately.”

Be­sides Rem­ing­ton, other de­fen­dants in the law­suit in­clude firearms dis­trib­u­tor Cam­four and Riverview Gun Sales, the now-closed East Wind­sor, Conn., store where Nancy Lanza bought the Bush­mas­ter ri­fle. They have the same de­fense ar­gu­ments as Rem­ing­ton.

Sev­eral par­ents of chil­dren who died in the Newtown shoot­ing at­tended Tues­day’s court hear­ing.

Faith in courts

Ian Hock­ley and his ex-wife, Ni­cole Hock­ley, whose son, Dy­lan, was killed, said they have faith that the courts will find the gun­maker re­spon­si­ble.

Ian Hock­ley said the mil­i­tary takes pre­cau­tions, such as train­ing and men­tal health test­ing, when it gives ri­fles to sol­diers. He said gun­mak­ers do not make sim­i­lar safety ef­forts when sell­ing ri­fles to civil­ians.

“They could not care less what hap­pens once the cash is in the bank, show­ing their ut­ter dis­re­gard for the lives this weapon takes and the fam­i­lies it de­stroys,” Ian Hock­ley said.

Cloe Pois­son / Hart­ford Courant

Ian Hock­ley, fa­ther of Dy­lan Hock­ley, one of the chil­dren killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook shoot­ing, talks to the me­dia af­ter a hear­ing Tues­day be­fore the state Supreme Court in Hart­ford, Conn.

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