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Is gun maker liable? Court takes up Newtown shooting case

14 Novembre 2017

A passionate fight for some Sandy Hook families continues in Supreme Court on Tuesday as they push to hold the gun maker of the rifle used in the shooting responsible.

The Sandy Hook case hinges on an exception to the federal immunity law that applies when a seller "negligently entrusts" a weapon to a buyer who is likely to use it in a crime.

Attorneys for Remington have said the rifle used in Newtown was legally made, legally distributed and legally sold to Lanza's mother.

A superior court judge dismissed the suit last October and cited the federal law that protects gun manufacturers from litigation if their products are used during a crime.

Families of nine victims who were killed and a teacher who survived the shooting sued. Negligent entrustment is specifically excepted from the 2005 gun maker shield laws.

Josh Koskoff, who is representing the Sandy Hook families, argued that Remington Arms had been courting gunman Adam Lanza for years prior to the shooting through specific advertising, particularly in video games such as Call of Duty. In Las Vegas and Orlando, shooters used high-powered weapons to kill more people than Lanza did in Sandy Hook.

"The weapon he needed for his mission was never in doubt", he said of the AR-15. "What we have is the conduct of a corporation that thought it was above the law and still thinks its above the law".

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The nation is watching the case closely because if the families succeed, and the state Supreme Court allows it to move forward, it could lead to a flood of lawsuits against gunmakers.

Twenty children and six educators were killed in the shooting. There have been 16 Amicus Curiae, or "friend of the court", briefs filed from agencies ranging from the National Rifle Association and the National Shooting Sports Foundation, headquartered not far from the Sandy Hook school, to a group of 10 physicians, many of whom have treated victims of a mass shooting, who are advocating for the victims' case.

After the hearing, Ian Hockley, father of Dylan, said Remington "could not care less what happens to their guns once the cash is in the bank, showing utter disregard for lives this weapon takes and the families it destroys".

"Five years have passed since our son Dylan was murdered in his first grade classroom, shot at least five times at point blank range with a Bushmaster variant of the military's primary battlefield rifle", he said. "The manufacturer of the Bushmaster takes no such precautions when unleashing their product into the civilian market".

The plaintiffs said the law does not protect Remington because it marketed the rifle "not for sport or for target shooting or self-defense" but "for exactly what it was", Koskoff said.

"A plaintiff under CUTPA must allege some kind of consumer, competitor, or other commercial relationship with a defendant, and the plaintiffs here have alleged no such relationship", the judge wrote.

The company has also argued that the question of whether the AR-15 should be sold to the public should be dealt with by legislators rather than juries.

Is gun maker liable? Court takes up Newtown shooting case