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SCOTUS Rules Sandy Hook Victims’ Relatives Lawsuit Against Gun Manufacturer Can Go Forward
Rifles from the US manufacturer Remington will be on display at the company's stand at the IWA OutdoorClassics trade fair for hunting, shooting, outdoor and safety.
Photo by Daniel Karmann/picture alliance via Getty Images

This week, the Supreme Court ruled it would refuse an appeal from the Remington Arms Company of a Connecticut Supreme Court ruling that permitted relatives of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims to sue Remington. The shooter in the Sandy Hook shooting used arms made by Remington.

The New York Times wrote, “The case has been seen as a test of the ability of plaintiffs to pierce the legal immunity of firearm manufacturers in the aftermath of shootings.”

Remington’s appeal was titled Remington Arms v. Soto; the Connecticut case was Soto v. Bushmaster. The Times noted, “The Sandy Hook families’ suit used one of six narrow exemptions to the 2005 law to argue that Remington violated Connecticut’s Unfair Trade Practices Act. The suit said the gun maker recklessly marketed the Bushmaster AR-15-style rifle to disturbed young men like the Sandy Hook gunman through product placement in violent video games and advertising pitches like ‘consider your man card reissued,’ and ‘the opposition will bow down.’”

In a brief filed by 22 members of the House of Representatives that supported Remington’s appeal, they wrote:

In enacting the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act of 2005 … Congress expressly recognized that lawsuits seeking to hold manufacturers and sellers of firearms liable for the criminal conduct of third-parties were not only “without foundation in hundreds of years of the common law and jurisprudence of the United States,” … but also improperly sought “to use the judicial branch to circumvent the Legislative branch of government to regulate interstate and foreign commerce through judgments and judicial decrees” that “weaken[ ] and undermin[e] important principles of federalism, State sovereignty and comity between the sister States.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation stated in response to the SCOTUS decision:

The National Shooting Sports Foundation, as the firearms industry’s trade association, is disappointed by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision today not to review the Connecticut Supreme Court’s decision in Remington v. Soto. Annually, more than 7,000 cases are petitioned to the high court. While the court only accepts a limited number of cases, we believed this case was worthy of review.  The case now returns to Connecticut state court for trial where the plaintiffs will need to prove that Remington’s lawful advertising of a legal product violated the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA), the only claim remaining in the case, and that it somehow caused (the Sandy Hook shooter) to murder innocent victims.

We are confident that Remington will prevail at trial. Nothing in Remington’s advertising of these products connotes or encourages the illegal or negligent misuse of firearms, or that (the shooter’s mother), who lawfully purchased the firearm two years prior to the incident, or (the shooter) himself, saw or were influenced in any way by any advertisement.  As the Connecticut Supreme Court noted in its 4-3 decision allowing the case to proceed noted, “Proving such a causal link at trial may prove to be a Herculean task.” We continue to feel sympathy toward the Sandy Hook victims, as NSSF is headquartered in Newtown, but (the shooter) alone is responsible for his heinous actions.

Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal tweeted after the SCOTUS ruling, “Sandy Hook families have successfully surmounted a sweetheart federal statute favoring gun companies. I’ll continue the fight to repeal the federal law (PLCAA) that has closed courthouse doors to countless other victims & families.”

Jason Ouimet, the executive director of the N.R.A.’s Institute for Legislative Action, stated that deflecting “attention away from mental illness and criminals in order to blame inanimate objects won’t reduce violent crime or make anyone safer.”


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