In January of 2015, the families of 10 victims involved in the devastating Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, which left 20 first-grade children and six educators dead, filed a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the gun used by Adam Lanza to carry out the massacre. The suit primarily sought to hold Remington Outdoor Company, among other defendants, responsible for purposefully and aggressively marketing a weapon to the general public that is specifically designed for military use. In October of 2016, Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis, in a 54-page ruling, dismissed the case, stating the charges fell too broadly within the scope of immunity federally provided to gun dealers through the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA). On Tuesday, November 15, the families filed an appeal in Appellate Court with a request it be heard by Connecticut’s Supreme Court.
Josh Koskoff, who represents the plaintiffs in the case, spoke on their behalf regarding the decision to appeal the dismissal of the initial lawsuit, telling the press, “We feel strongly that the critical issues raised in this case belong before our state’s Supreme Court and we hope the Court agrees. The Supreme Court not only sets precedent but also reviews the applicability and relevance of prior decisions, and works to ensure that the common law is up-to-date with the realities and dangers of a changing world.”
The plaintiffs’ initial case alleged the semiautomatic Remington Bushmaster AR-15 used by Lanza, who shot 154 bullets in roughly five minutes (including one aimed at himself in a successful suicide attempt), was unacceptably made available to average, untrained and non-military citizens, thus resulting in the defendants violating the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA).
Along with Remington Outdoor Co., additional defendants included gun distributor Camfour Inc. and Riverview Gun Sales Inc., who sold the murder weapon to Lanza’s mother, Nancy Lanza. One can’t help but question the need for a military-grade weapon, in addition to her already-hefty arsenal of guns, particularly when Ms. Lanza was aware of her son’s documented psychological impairments.
However, Judge Bellis wrote in her ruling the families could not win the suit based on CUTPA because “A plaintiff under CUTPA must allege some kind of consumer, competitor, or other commercial relationship with a defendant, and the plaintiffs here have alleged no such relationship.”
She also stated, “Congress, through the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), has broadly prohibited lawsuits against manufacturers, distributors, dealers, and importers of firearms…for the harm solely caused by the criminal or unlawful misuse of firearm products…by others when the product functioned as designed and intended.”
The appeal asks for the state’s Supreme Court to review whether Connecticut law can hold the sellers of the gun liable for the horrifying events that took place on December 14, 2012. Among other heartbreaking details outlined in the appeal, it also reads, in part, “Fifty-pound bodies were riddled with five, eleven, even thirteen bullets… It is the reality the defendants created when they chose to sell a weapon of war and aggressively market its assaultive capabilities. Ten families who paid the price for those choices seek accountability through Connecticut common and statutory law. It is only appropriate that Connecticut’s highest court decide whether these families have the right to proceed.”
Stricter gun control laws do not equate to abolishing anyone’s Second Amendment right to bear arms. It does beg the question, though, why such a huge majority of the population is ‘up in arms’ about ensuring those who exercise this right feel the need to own weaponry intended for war? No one is coming to take your guns, as evidenced throughout our nation’s history (and despite the constant vocal outcry from those who believe otherwise.) I just can’t wrap my head around the mixed message being sent.
How does it make sense the 26 casualties at Sandy Hook, 20 of whom were at or under the age of six (among the countless others who have lost their lives to mass shootings, which continue to be a sobering reality in this country), matter less than whether or not a person should be allowed to purchase an unrelenting military assault weapon for protection? Protection against what?
When the stories break of the ‘bad guy’ having a gun and the ‘good guy’ having a bigger one to stop the violence let me know, because I haven’t heard of one yet. Until then, I suggest some soul-searching about what you’re really fighting for.
In the words of Nicole Hockely, whose 6-year-old son Dylan was shot to death with a Remington AR-15, “Nothing will ever bring back my son, Dylan, or the other lives stolen from us on that awful day. Our only goal in bringing this appeal is to help prevent the next Sandy Hook from happening.”
Who doesn’t feel the same?