Connecticut Supreme Court: Suit Against AR-15 Manufacturer Can Proceed

AP Photo/Seth Perlman
AP Photo/Seth Perlman
AWR HAWKINS

The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled 4-3 that the suit against the manufacturer of the stolen AR-15 used in the Sandy Hook shooting can proceed.

The attacker in the December 14, 2012, shooting took the Bushmaster rifle from his mother, killed her, then took the AR-15 and other stolen guns to school and killed 26 others.

The suit is against Remington, which is the parent company of Bushmaster, and it was filed in October 2014. It was dismissed two years later, in October 2016, by Connecticut Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis.

Bellis dismissed the case in light of the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), which protects gun manufacturers from being sued in instances where the gun in question was legally made and sold. The Bushmaster was legally made and sold to Nancy Lanza, prior to it being stolen and used in a crime.

The case went to the Connecticut Supreme Court on appeal, and that court ruled that PLCAA does not shield Remington in this particular instance.

Connecticut Supreme Court documents capture the crux of the suit:

[The Sandy Hook attacker] carried out this massacre using a Bushmaster XM15-E2S semiautomatic rifle that was allegedly manufactured, distributed, and ultimately sold to [his] mother by the various defendants in this case. There is no doubt that [the attacker] was directly and primarily responsible for this appalling series of crimes. In this action, however, the plaintiffs—administrators of the estates of nine of the decedents—contend that the defendants also bear some of the blame. The plaintiffs assert a number of different legal theories as to why the defendants should be held partly responsible for the tragedy. The defendants counter that all of the plaintiffs’ legal theories are not only barred under Connecticut law, but also precluded by a federal statute, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA).

On March 14, 2019, the Connecticut Supreme Court reversed Judge Bellis’ decision, ruling the case can go forward based on the marketing strategy employed to the sell the AR-15 at the time Nancy Lanza purchased it.

Connecticut Supreme Court Associate Justice Richard N. Palmer emphasized the focus on marketing of firearms:

Specifically, if the defendants did indeed seek to expand the market for their assault weapons through advertising campaigns that encouraged consumers to use the weapons not for legal purposes such as self defense, hunting, collecting, or target practice, but to launch offensive assaults against their perceived enemies, then we are aware of nothing in the text or legislative history of PLCAA to indicate that Congress intended to shield the defendants from liability for the tragedy that resulted.

The dissent was written by Chief Justice Richard A. Robinson, who stressed that the PLCAA preempts the claims based on advertisement. Rather than reverse Judge Bellis’ ruling, Robinson wrote, “I would affirm the judgment of the trial court in its entirety.”

Remington can now petition SCOTUS to hear this case because it involves a federal statute.

The case is Soto, Administratrix (Estate of of Victoria L. Soto), et al., v. Bushmaster Firearms International, LLC, et al, SC 19832, SC 19833, in the Connecticut Supreme Court.

AWR Hawkins is an award-winning Second Amendment columnist for Breitbart News and the writer/curator of Down Range with AWR Hawkins, a weekly newsletter focused on all things Second Amendment, also for Breitbart News. He is the political analyst for Armed American Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @AWRHawkins. Reach him directly at awrhawkins@breitbart.com. Sign up to get Down Range at breitbart.com/downrange.

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