The families of Newtown victims will take their high-stakes case to Connecticut’s highest court Tuesday, arguing that gun manufacturers are liable when military-grade firearms end up in the hands of mentally ill mass shooters.
The case, brought by nine Sandy Hook Elementary families and one survivor against Remington Arms, alleges the company was negligent in the sale and marketing of the Bushmaster AR-15 assault-style rifle. The ads for the gun, they say, recklessly appealed to mentally unstable young people — like Adam Lanza — through video games and militaristic slogans.
“Any seller of firearms, particularly one of military-style assault rilfes, has to take into account the marketplace and the reality of how those weapons may foreseeably be used,” said Jon Lowy, vice president for litigation at the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
“If you’re selling cars you have to prepare for the fact people will use them illegally, crash, them, drive intoxicated — your job is to make and sell a product to prevent that from happening.”
Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims
The Brady Center filed a brief in support of the Newtown families and has argued similar cases around the country.
The lawsuit stemming from the Dec. 14, 2012, shooting that left 20 children and six school staffers dead faces daunting odds.
A 2005 federal law, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, says that gun companies cannot be sued for harm caused by others as long as “the product functioned as designed and intended.”
The Dec. 14, 2012, shooting left 20 children and six school staffers dead.
(John Moore/Getty Images)
A lower court dismissed the case in October 2016, ruling that gunmakers enjoy “broad immunity.”
If the Newtown families prevail before the Supreme Court in Hartford, the case will return to the lower court, where they will seek to examine Remington’s internal marketing documents.
Remington notes that the gun was legally sold to Adam Lanza’s mother, Nancy, in 2010. Remington has said the company had no knowledge of Lanza’s “dangerous propensities” prior to the attack.