HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — This is not the first time victims of gun violence have sued gun makers, but it is the first time a lawsuit like this has made it all the way to a state Supreme Court.
Both sides made their cases to the Connecticut Supreme Court Tuesday. One survivor of the shooting, and the families of nine victims at Sandy Hook Elementary are suing the manufacturer of the Bushmaster assault rifle used to kill 20 children and 6 educators.
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It’s a tough thing to argue in court. This case was thrown out of a lower court, mainly because federal law says gun makers cannot be held liable for crimes committed with their guns. The angle the Sandy hook families are taking is that, even though no one from Remington ever met the Sandy Hook shooter, they were courting him, and targeting people just like him.
“They actively market their weapons to unstable individuals,” said Ian Hockley. His son Dylan was one of the shooting victims, and he is one of the lawsuit’s plaintiffs.
“Now Remington may have never known Adam Lanza, but they had been courting him for years,” said attorney Joshua Koskoff, who is representing the Sandy Hook families.
They marketed the weapon for exactly what it was. They used images of soldiers in combat. They used slogans involving battle and high pressure missions.”
James Vogts, the attorney representing Remington on Tuesday, said that Remington’s advertisements are protected by the first amendment.
The plaintiffs have not cited any case in which an advertisement, a promotional advertisement, has been held to be the cause of a personal injury or wrongful death… Advertisements are commercial speech. They involve First Amendment protection.”
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Remington also argued the gun maker never met the shooter, had way to know that he was mentally ill, and that his mother would give him access to the Bushmaster. The Sandy Hook answer to that is that in the age of ‘Call of Duty’ and first person shooter video games, they say Remington was specifically targeting their marketing for this dangerous weapon to lonely young men who spend their days playing video games.
“This kind of rifle is owned by millions of Americans all across the country for hunting, target shooting and home defense purposes,” responded Vogts.
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The victims’ families are hoping the high court will rule the Bushmaster’s marketing was negligent, the definition of which is the failure to use reasonable care.
“They could not care less what happens to the guns once the cash is in the bank, showing utter disregard for the lives this weapon takes and the families it destroys,” said Hockley.
If the Supreme Court overturns the lower court, it would pave the way for this case to go to a jury trial. That would set a major precedent for victims of other gun crimes to do the same thing. We will not hear their finding today. That could still be weeks away.