The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected an appeal from Remington Arms, paving the way for a survivor and relatives of victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting to pursue their lawsuit against the maker of the rifle used to kill 20 first grade students and six educators.
Attorneys for Remington Arms had argued it should be protected from such litigation by a 2005 federal law preventing most lawsuits against firearms manufacturers when their products are used in crimes, according to The Associated Press.
Per reporting by the AP:
The lawsuit says the Madison, North Carolina-based company should never have sold a weapon as dangerous as the Bushmaster AR-15-style rifle to the general public. It further alleges that Remington targeted younger, at-risk males in marketing and product placement in violent video games.
Opponents of the suit contend that the shooter, 20-year-old Adam Lanza alone was responsible for killing the students and educators.
The rifle used in the mass shooting was legally owned by Lanza’s mother, whom he had shot and killed before the school shooting.
A leading gun industry group, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, said it was disappointed that the Supreme Court declined to review the case while voicing confidence that Remington will win in the trial court.
The NSSF opinion essentially echoed that of a majority of justices on the Connecticut Supreme Court who ruled in a 4-3 decision that the case could proceed. The Connecticut Supreme Court decision overturned a ruling by a trial court judge who dismissed the lawsuit based on the 2005 federal law, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.
Despite the 4-3 ruling allowing the case to move forward, a majority of the Connecticut justices said it may be a “Herculean task” for the families to prove their case at trial.
Despite the fact that the AR-15-style rifle resembles the current U.S. military rifle, semi-automatic rifles of that style are widely used by hunters, competitive shooters and law enforcement officers.
Three Democratic lawmakers from Connecticut, Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy and Rep. Jahana Hayes, said in a statement that the 2005 federal law needs to be repealed.
“For years, gun manufacturers have been allowed to operate with near-blanket immunity — producing weapons of war and marketing them to the masses with zero accountability. This critical victory reinforces the need for Congress to pass legislation repealing the gun industry’s sweetheart immunity deal and unlocking the doors to justice for all victims of gun violence.”
While the rifle used in the Sandy Hook shootings is a look-alike to the military’s weapon of war, it is not, as the lawmakers charged, a “weapon of war.”
In the wrong hands any number of manufactured items can be used for illicit or immoral purposes, and the case that has now been cleared to go to trial in Connecticut will — and should — be watched carefully by all manner of manufacturers.
The case foreshadows a potentially slippery slope for all manufacturers — one that the U.S. Supreme Court could eventually have to rule on.