Can Shooting Victims and Their Families Sue Firearms Manufacturers? SCOTUS Finally Chimes in.

Posted: Nov 12, 2019 6:44 PM
Can Shooting Victims and Their Families Sue Firearms Manufacturers? SCOTUS Finally Chimes in.

Source: AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File

The Supreme Court on Tuesday gave the families of Sandy Hook victims the green light to continue with their lawsuit against Remington, the manufacturer of the firearms used during the tragic 2012 shooting. The gunman used a Bushmaster XM15-E2S, commonly referred to as an AR-15, to carry out his attack that left 26 dead, including 20 children and seven adults. One of the victims was his mother.

Remington, the parent company of Bushmaster, has been in a drawn out legal battle with a survivor and families of the Sandy Hook shooting. The manufacturer asked the Supreme Court to decide, once and for all, if gun manufacturers should be held responsible for crimes committed with their product.

The Connecticut Supreme Court previously ruled that Remington could be sued based on state law because of how the rifle was marketed to the public. A lower court judge had originally thrown the case out, saying Remington was protected under the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which protects firearms manufacturers and dealers from being held liable when a person commits a crime with one of their products.

“Congress enacted the (law) to ensure that firearms — so central to American society that the Founders safeguarded their ownership and use in the Bill of Rights — would be regulated only through the democratic process rather than the vagaries of litigation,” Remington lawyers Scott Keller and Stephanie Cagniart wrote to the U.S. Supreme Court in their original plea.

Sandy Hook families consider this a win.

“I support the Second Amendment and the right to own firearms and guns, but on the other hand there’s reckless advertising and marketing,” parent Neil Heslin told the Associated Press. “There should be accountability and responsibility for that.”

The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the firearms industry trade association, disagreed with Heslin's take.

Below is the NSSF's statement:

The National Shooting Sports Foundation, as the firearms industry’s trade association, is disappointed by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision today not to review the Connecticut Supreme Court’s decision in Remington v. Soto. Annually, more than 7,000 cases are petitioned to the high court. While the court only accepts a limited number of cases, we believed this case was worthy of review.  The case now returns to Connecticut state court for trial where the plaintiffs will need to prove that Remington’s lawful advertising of a legal product violated the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA), the only claim remaining in the case, and that it somehow caused Adam Lanza to murder innocent victims.  We are confident that Remington will prevail at trial. Nothing in Remington’s advertising of these products connotes or encourages the illegal or negligent misuse of firearms, or that Mrs. Nancy Lanza, who lawfully purchased the firearm two years prior to the incident, or Adam Lanza himself, saw or were influenced in any way by any advertisement.  As the Connecticut Supreme Court noted in its 4-3 decision allowing the case to proceed noted, “Proving such a causal link at trial may prove to be a Herculean task.” We continue to feel sympathy toward the Sandy Hook victims, as NSSF is headquartered in Newtown, but Adam Lanza alone is responsible for his heinous actions.

This article has been updated with a statement from the National Shooting Sports Foundation.