Suit seeks to hold gunmaker liable
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 firstgraders 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 highpressure missions.
The Connecticut case is being watched by gun-rights supporters and gun-control advocates 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 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 high-profile shooting attacks, including the Aurora, Colorado, movie theater shooting and the Washington, D.C., sniper shootings.
Ian Hockley, father of a child killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, speaks to the media after a hearing before the Connecticut Supreme Court on Tuesday. A survivor and relatives of nine people killed in the shooting are trying to sue the maker of the assault-style rifle used by the gunman.