A state court in Connecticut has ruled that victims of Adam Lanza’s shooting spree at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 can sue Remington Arms because the killer stole his mother’s rifle to use in the attack.
“This is like suing Ford or General Motors because a car they sold was stolen and used to run over a pedestrian all because the car manufacturers advertised that their car had better acceleration and performance than other vehicles,” said Alan Gottlieb, the executive vice president of the Second Amendment Foundation.
The 20-year-old Lanza killed his mother and stole her legal Bushmaster rifle to take to the school, where he murdered 20 children and six adults.
A lawsuit claimed that Remington’s advertising was designed to glorify the Bushmaster rifle and enhance its appeal to younger consumers.
Justice Richard Palmer of the Connecticut Supreme Court said in the majority opinion that “regulation of advertising that threatens the public’s health, safety, and morals has long been considered a core exercise of the state’s police powers.”
That’s absurd, said Gottlieb.
“Did the advertising even remotely suggest that the Bushmaster is best for murdering people? It appears to me like the court was looking for a way to squeak around the provisions of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act that Congress passed in 2005. After all, the court dismissed most of the allegations, but now has decided that advertising might be at fault. That’s a stretch of credulity worthy of surgical elastic.”
He insisted there is no evidence the killer was driven by any advertising.
“This is an affront to the First Amendment as well as the Second,” he said. “Even hinting that the killer was motivated in some way by an advertising message is so far out in the weeds that it may take a map for the court to find its way back.”
The move comes amid a new surge in gun-control activism. Many states have passed “red flag” laws that allow relatives or law enforcement to go to a judge to remove the Second Amendment rights of people they think should not have guns.
The laws would also eliminate due process for the victims of those campaigns.
In Connecticut, the 4-3 vote reinstated the case against Remington.
“This ruling strains logic, if not common sense,” said Gottlieb, “The court dismissed the bulk of the lawsuit’s allegations, but appears to have grasped at this single straw by deciding that the advertising is somehow at fault for what Adam Lanza did that day in December more than six years ago.”
Philly.com called it a “groundbreaking decision” in the case brought by the estates of nine of Lanza’s victims.
They claimed the rifle’s manufacturer and distributor negligently allowed and encouraged civilians to use a weapon suitable only for military and law enforcement use.
USA Today reported plaintiffs lawyer Joshua Koskoff told the court during a hearing in 2017 the Bushmaster never should have been sold to the public.
He said Thursday the manufacturer was guilty of using the gun to “court high-risk users.”
The 2005 federal law, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, has been used as the basis for other court decisions to reject lawsuits against gun makers.
Those cases focused on a 2012 movie-theater shooting in Colorado and others.
Law professor John Banzhaf warned such a precedent could open up fast food companies to liability for obesity if they marketed to young children. Or those who market off-road vehicles could be liable if their ads suggest to youngsters the excitement of using them.
He said that in legal disputes, Lanza became what is known as an “intervening cause” who was engaged in a felony punishable by death.