Suit seeks to hold gun­maker li­able

The Columbus Dispatch - - Nation&world - 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 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.

[CLOE POIS­SON/THE (HART­FORD) COURANT]

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.

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