News & Politics

Bushmaster to Appeal Sandy Hook Gun Ruling to SCOTUS

FILE - In this Jan. 28, 2013, file photo, firearms training unit Detective Barbara J. Mattson, of the Connecticut State Police, holds a Bushmaster AR-15 rifle, the same make and model used by Adam Lanza in the 2012 Sandy Hook School shooting, during a hearing at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, Conn. A divided Connecticut Supreme Court ruled, Thursday, March 14, 2019, gun maker Remington can be sued over how it marketed the Bushmaster rifle used in the massacre. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File)

A panel of Connecticut judges ruled that nine victims of the Sandy Hook school shooting can sue Bushmaster despite a law that shields gun manufacturers from lawsuits.

The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) protects firearms companies from liability regarding the use of their product in a crime. Suing a gun manufacturer for criminal use of their product would be like suing a car company because a car they manufactured was involved in a vehicular homicide or used as transportation to a murder or assault.

But really, who cares about that when you have a political agenda?

PLCAA’s prohibitions notwithstanding, the Connecticut Supreme Court said the Sandy Hook plaintiffs could proceed with their lawsuit against Bushmaster. The plaintiffs, citing advertising materials that place the XM15 in a marital context and glorify its lethal capacity, say Bushmaster violated Connecticut’s unfair trade practices law because its marketing campaign for the weapon encouraged its use for illegal purposes.

The state Supreme Court said the plaintiffs can proceed on that claim under an exception to the PLCAA that sets aside immunity if a manufacturer breaks a law “applicable to the sale or marketing of the product.” The panel returned the case to a lower court for trial. The decision stunned pro-Second Amendment groups.

A marketing campaign for the weapon encouraged its use for illegal purposes? How many AR-15 — one of the most popular firearms on the market — owners are out there using their weapons like the Sandy Hook shooter? A tiny fraction of a percent. It doesn’t seem plausible that Bushmaster’s marketing made this very sick and mentally ill man decide to slaughter 20 children. Was the company ever informed that their marketing was breaking the unfair trade practices law?

Remington, which owns Bushmaster, has asked the Connecticut court to stay the decision as it appeals to the Supreme Court on Connecticut’s interpretation of the PLCAA. The PLCAA applies both at the federal and state level.

“Remington’s attempt to stay the case is simply another tactic designed to delay and prevent the families from learning the truth of what went on behind closed doors. Fortunately for all of us, transparency is a cornerstone of our civil justice system, and nobody — not even Remington — is above the law,” said Josh Koskoff, attorney for the Sandy Hook families.

In 2014, the families of nine of the victims filed a wrongful death suit against the manufacturers and distributors of the Bushmaster rifle. That case was dismissed in 2016 by Connecticut Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis, citing the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.

However, Sandy Hook families appealed the dismissal, and last month, the Connecticut Supreme Court allowed the lawsuit against gun manufacturers to go forward. The families argue that the gun manufacturers knowingly marketed the gun to those who “carry out offensive, military style combat missions against their perceived enemies.” State law does not permit advertisements that encourage criminal behavior, according to the decision.

If the appeal is granted, the case will be heard during the Supreme Court’s next term, which begins in October.