HARTFORD, Conn. – Gunman Remington may be sued for selling the rifle used to kill 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, ruled Thursday in the Connecticut Supreme Court.
Gun control advocates have presented the judgment as a possible roadmap for victims of other large-scale shootings to circumvent a long-criticized federal law that protects gun makers from liability. in most cases when their products are used for criminal purposes. Proponents of gun rights denounced the decision as judicial activism and over-reach.
In a four-on-three decision, the judges reinstated a lawsuit for wrongful death against Remington and overturned the decision of a lower court judge, who declared that the entire prosecution was barred The majority stated that although most of the prosecution's claims were blocked by federal law, Remington could still be prosecuted for alleged unlawful marketing under the Connecticut Act.
"The regulation of advertising that threatens the health, safety and morals of the public has long been considered an essential exercise of state police powers," wrote Judge Richard Palmer, stating that he did not believe that Congress was considering total immunity against firearms. -makers.
Several prosecutions for massacres in other states have been dismissed because of federal law.
Complainants in Connecticut include a survivor and relatives of nine people killed in the massacre. They argue that the Bushmaster AR-15 style rifle used by the Newtown shooter Adam Lanza is too dangerous for the public and Remington has glorified his weapon by marketing it to young people, including people suffering from mental illness.
Remington, based in Madison, North Carolina, denied the wrongdoing and had previously insisted it could not be prosecuted because of the 2005 law, called the Lawful Trade in Arms Protection Act. A spokesman for Remington said Thursday that the company had made no comment on the court's ruling.
"We have no timetable for comments on the subject," spokesman Eric Suarez said in an email to The Associated Press.
Remington's lawyer, James Vogts, cited the 2005 federal law and has already stated that the Bushmaster rifle is a legal firearm used by millions of people for hunting, self-defense and target shooting. .
Lanza, 20, has pioneered the Newtown Locked School on December 14, 2012 and has killed 20 freshmen and six educators with a Bushmaster XM15-E2S rifle, similar to an ARM. 15. Previously, he had shot his mother in Newtown, their home, and committed suicide when the police arrived at school.
The Connecticut Children's Advocate said that Lanza's serious and deteriorating mental health problems, his concern for violence and his access to his mother's legal weapons "were a recipe for mass murder."
Nicole Hockley, whose 6-year-old son Dylan, died as a result of the shooting, said Thursday that the main focus of the lawsuit was to prevent Remington and other gun makers from targeting their advertisements on young men in difficulty.
"We have always said that our case is about inconsiderate sales and marketing to troubled youth," Hockley said. "We wanted our day in court. This is a step forward in preventing manufacturers like Remington from continuing to target those at risk. "
A gun industry group, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which is located in Newtown, said the Supreme Court's decision was an "overly broad interpretation" of an exception to the law 2005.
"The majority decision today goes against all other federal and state appeal courts that have interpreted the scope of the exception," the group said in a statement. release, adding that "the decision of the Court is the majority disappointed and disappointed".
Connecticut Chief Justice Richard Robinson has focused most of his dissent on the intent of Congress to limit the liability of gun makers.
"Because the contempt of a federal law does not diminish its preventive effect, I would uphold the trial court's judgment dismissing the plaintiff's complaint in its entirety," wrote Robinson.
US Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, described the decision as a victory for the victims of gun violence, which gives an opportunity for an effort by his and other federal legislators to repeal the 2005 law.
"This is an extraordinary moment in American legal history," he said. "It will change the legal landscape of this industry, potentially across the country."
Blumenthal said the decision reminded him of the court's victories over tobacco companies, which had led them to disclose damaging internal documents and later accept billions of dollars of legal regulations for sick smokers.
Joshua Koskoff, plaintiffs' lawyer, said the Bushmaster rifle and other AR-15 type rifles were designed as military killing machines and should never have been sold to the public. He accuses Remington of targeting younger, at-risk men through "militaristic marketing and judicious placement of products in violent first-person shooter games."
"The goal of families has always been to shed light on Remington's calculated, profit-driven strategy of expanding the AR-15 market and wooing high-risk users at the expense of security. Americans, "said Koskoff. "Today's decision is a critical step in achieving this goal."
The lawsuit seeks undisclosed damages.
Military-style rifles were used in many other large-scale shootings, including in Las Vegas in October 2017, during which 58 people were killed and hundreds more injured.
Firearms advocates and gun control advocates across the country have viewed the case as potentially affecting others, accusing gun makers of "gunfire". be responsible for large-scale shootings. Several groups, ranging from NRA to emergency room doctors, submitted briefs to the court.
The 2005 federal law was cited by other courts that dismissed lawsuits against gun makers and gun dealers, including the shooting at the Colorado movie theater in 2012 and sniper fire in Washington, DC, in 2002.
Robert J. Spitzer, President of Political Science at the State University of New York at Cortland and Firearms Expert and Second Amendment, said that the Connecticut ruling went against the federal law of 2005. Although the court allowed the case to continue, he said, there was still a very big bar to successfully prosecute Remington.
"The probability that they succeed is low," he said.
Nevertheless, allowing the trial to go forward means that there will be a possibility of discovery that would uncover corporate documents that could be embarrassing for Remington. Since gunners have recently been safe from prosecution, company officials may have felt emboldened to openly discuss tactics, marketing strategies and other revealing details of commercial transactions.
Remington sought reorganization of its bankruptcy last year after years of declining sales and legal and financial pressure on the Sandy Hook school massacre.
Lisa Marie Pane, Associated Press Editor in Boise, Idaho, contributed to this report.
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