Is gun­maker li­able for New­town? Con­necti­cut court takes up the case

Texarkana Gazette - - NATION/WORLD -

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 and idol­ized the Army Rangers, at­tor­ney Joshua Koskoff said.

Koskoff asked the high court to re­in­state a wrong­ful death law­suit against Madi­son, North Carolina-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-year-old 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 high-pres­sure mis­sions.”

The case is be­ing watched by gun rights sup­port­ers and gun con­trol ad­vo­cates across the coun­try as one that could set a prece­dent in 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 gun-mak­ers from li­a­bil­ity when their prod­ucts are used in crimes, and two ex­cep­tions to the law.

One ex­cep­tion al­lows law­suits al­leg­ing “neg­li­gent en­trust­ment”: when com­pa­nies know, or should know, that their weapons are likely to be used in a way that risks in­jury to oth­ers. The other al­lows law­suits al­leg­ing man­u­fac­tur­ers know­ingly vi­o­lated a state or fed­eral law that ap­plies to the sale or mar­ket­ing of firearms.

The plain­tiffs in the case—a sur­vivor and rel­a­tives of nine peo­ple killed—sued Rem­ing­ton in 2015, cit­ing the neg­li­gent en­trust­ment ex­cep­tion and claim­ing the com­pany vi­o­lated a Con­necti­cut 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 that the Bush­mas­ter ri­fle is a le­gal firearm en­joyed by mil­lions of recre­ational shoot­ers, and 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.

But he added, “The law needs to be ap­plied dis­pas­sion­ately.”

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

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

“I have faith in our jus­tice sys­tem,” said Nicole Hock­ley, whose son Dy­lan was killed. “I have faith in morals and rights. And I be­lieve that we will have our day in court to prove this case.”

Associated Press

Ian Hock­ley, front left, fa­ther of Dy­lan Hock­ley, one of the chil­dren killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Ele­men­tary School shoot­ing, speaks Tues­day out­side the Con­necti­cut Supreme Court in Hart­ford fol­low­ing an ap­peal hear­ing on whether gun­maker Rem­ing­ton Arms should be held li­able for the mas­sacre.

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