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Relatives of Sandy Hook victims call for justice

by Kari Ashworth - News Editor
Tue, Nov 19th 2019 09:00 pm
A memorial (above) dedicated to those who lost their lives in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. A weapon (right) designed by the Remington Arms Company.
A memorial (above) dedicated to those who lost their lives in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. A weapon (right) designed by the Remington Arms Company.

The Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday, Nov. 12, relatives of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims can sue Remington Arms Company, the manufacturer of the rifle used in the shooting. 

According to The New York Times, the court ruled “would not hear an appeal by Remington of a ruling by Connecticut’s Supreme Court that allowed a lawsuit brought by the families of the victims to go forward.” Given that the Supreme Court will not hear the case, it is likely there will be more challenges to a 2005 federal law that shields gun makers, dealers and distributors from lawsuits after gun-related crimes. 

The families’ lawsuit used an exception in the 2005 law to argue Remington violated Connecticut’s Unfair Trade Practices Act, according to The New York Times. In the lawsuit, it argued Remington “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.’” 

According to CNN, the lawsuit alleges Remington marketed rifles by “extolling the militaristic qualities of the rifle and reinforcing the image of a combat weapon.” This is in violation of the Connecticut law preventing deceptive marketing practices. 

Weapons such as the Bushmaster AR-15- style rifle used in the massacre that killed 20 first graders and six educators should never have been available to the general public the lawsuit claims. Opponents of the suit, according to AP News, argue the manufacturer cannot be responsible for the deaths, only the lone gunman should be held responsible. 

“I support the Second Amendment and the right to own firearms and guns, but on the other hand there’s reckless advertising and marketing,” Neil Heslin, whose son, Jesse Lewis, died in the shooting, said to AP News. “There should be accountability and responsibility for that.” 

Remington could not be reached for a comment, according to CNN, but the families are “grateful” for the Supreme Court’s decision. 

A statement from the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry’s trade association, said it was “disappointed” by the decision, according to The New York Times. The foundation is “confident that Remington will prevail at trial” and believes there is no evidence the gunman or his mother, who bought the weapon, “were influenced in any way by any advertisement.” 

With the Supreme Court decision, the lawsuit is able to move forward with the discovery phase, which is a pretrial exchange of information. According to The New York Times, the Newtown families’ lawyers have requested internal Remington documents, market research, emails and other communications related to the company’s marketing practices. 

This is a move legal experts predict could potentially shift the public conversation against Remington. Alexandra D. Lahav, a University of Connecticut law professor who helped write a legal filing that supported the families’ lawsuit, told The New York Times that “public sentiment toward other industries has shifted” after documents during the discovery phase of legal cases revealed companies had misled the American public. 

Regardless, the lawsuit is not about gun control, according to Heslin and his wife Scarlett Lewis. 

“It’s solely and strictly about the marketing of Remington products,” the pair said in a joint statement. “Gun control is really not what the lawsuit is about. It’s about the marketing and advertising, accountability and responsibility.” 

If the Sandy Hook families’ win the lawsuit, this could open the doors for other lawsuits against gun manufacturers and allow them tomove forward. 

Public debate over gun control has been rampant following the increase in mass shootings over the past few years. As of Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019, there have been 369 mass shootings in the U.S., according to data from the non-profit Gun Violence Archive. 

Sandy Hook families are not attacking gun control with this lawsuit though, possibly because it is a moot fight at the moment. It is hard to tell if stricter gun laws would stop mass shootings, and going after the manufacturer instead is a good tactic. 

If gun manufacturers were unable to use deceptive marketing techniques, and if they stopped pushing toxic masculinity (which can directly correlate to mass shootings), there is hope we could see a decrease in mass shootings. 

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