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Supreme Court Won’t Take Sandy Hook Case, Will Allow Victims Of Mass Shooting To Sue Gun Makers

By  Emily Zanotti
The US Supreme Court is seen in Washington, DC, on January 31, 2017. - President Donald Trump was poised Tuesday to unveil his pick for the US Supreme Court, a crucial appointment that could tilt the bench to conservatives on deeply divisive issues such as abortion and gun control. Trump's choice aims to fill a vacancy left by the sudden death of conservative justice Antonin Scalia in February 2016, which left the highest US court with four conservative and four liberal justices. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)
SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

The Supreme Court Tuesday refused to take up an appeal from a Connecticut state court, allowing a case, brought by the parents of victims and survivors of the Sandy Hook mass shooting, to move forward with their lawsuit against Remington Arms Co., the manufacturer of the Bushmaster rifle used by the Sandy Hook killer to murder a classroom full of first graders and their teacher.

NPR reports that the Supreme Court denied Remington’s appeal, which focused on a 2005 law prohibiting the victims of gun violence from suing gun manufacturers for wrongful death and disfigurement. The Sandy Hook parents are using one of the law’s exemptions, which allows victims to sue gun manufacturers for their alleged unfair and illegal marketing practices, not over the weapons themselves.

The Sandy Hook parents have been trying to sue Remington for years, and several other lawsuits were tossed by lower courts, citing the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which grants gun manufacturers like Remington “broad immunity” from civil suits.

This time around, though, attorneys brought claims under a small exemption in the law that concerns weapons marketing under the theory that the Bushmaster rifle “never should have been sold to the public because it is a military-style weapon. They accuse Remington of violating Connecticut’s unfair trade practices law when it ‘knowingly marketed and promoted the Bushmaster XM15-E2S rifle for use in assaults against human beings,'” according to NPR.

In filings with the U.S. Supreme Court, the Sandy Hook families say Remington “published promotional materials that promised ‘military-proven performance’ for a ‘mission-adaptable’ shooter in need of the ‘ultimate combat weapons system.'” They also accuse the company of fostering a “lone gunman” narrative as it promoted the Bushmaster, citing an ad that proclaimed, “Forces of opposition, bow down. You are single-handedly outnumbered.”

“This is a weapon that’s been designed to inflict mass casualties and, ‘you’re not a man if you don’t have it.’ That’s morally reprehensible and, from a marketing perspective, that’s just wrong and needs to stop,” one of the plaintiffs told CBS News.

The families also say that Remington marketed the rifle to odd demographics, including marginalized white males, by advertising within video games and in magazines and publications not geared toward hunters, which Remington says are the core consumers of the Bushmaster rifle series.

“Lawyers for the victims sued Remington contending that the company marketed rifles by extolling the militaristic qualities of the rifle and reinforcing the image of a combat weapon,” CNN reported Tuesday morning.

Gun rights advocates contend that the lawsuit, if successful (it’s still in its very early stages), could provide a backdoor way for gun control advocates to restrict the sale of weapons they deem “unacceptable” to own or use, including the Bushmaster and the much-maligned AR-15.

Remington did not have comment on the Supreme Court denial Tuesday morning, but it is probably preparing to handle the case head-on in Connecticut courts. The case now moves to a discovery period, where the Sandy Hook victims’ families will likely information on how Remington made its marketing decisions for the Bushmaster rifle.

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