A group of doctors who treated the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre and other mass shooting events are asking the Rhode Island Supreme Court to reinstate a lawsuit against firearms manufacturer Remington.
The physicians’ lawyers came out last Tuesday saying they supported an appeal to punish Remington as well as local firearms dealers and distributors.
Families of the victims began a push to reinstate the lawsuit at the beginning of March. Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis had dismissed their case, claiming that Remington couldn’t be held responsible for selling a product deemed legally permissible by the U.S. Congress and Constitution.
However, the group of 10 doctors doesn’t believe Bellis made a wise decision. Like the families of the victims, the physicians are concerned with the destructive capability of the high-powered AR-15 rifle. Some had treated patients from Newtown while others were in the emergency room in the aftermath of the Aurora theater shooting, Columbine, and the San Bernardino attack.
The AR-15 was used by Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza and has been used in other mass shooting events. Anti-gun activists are concerned by the rifle’s military aesthetic and ability to be modified. Lawsuits and other pieces of litigation have been filed against available accessories as well, such as high-capacity magazines.
“These military weapons are distinct from handguns and rifles used for hunting or self-defense,” lawyers for their doctors said in a brief. “They can cause enormous human carnage, destruction, and chaos with their high energy and rapid fire bullets that leave gaping holes and turn surrounding tissue and organs into goo in large numbers of victims in a matter of seconds.”
Adam Lanza had used a Bushmaster AR-15 semi-automatic rifle manufactured by Remington into the massacre. He had taken the weapon from his mother’s gun safe before murdering her and driving to Sandy Hook elementary.
Before the case was dismissed by Bellis, the plaintiffs had tried arguing that Remington was knowingly marketing its Bushmaster at young and militaristic young men. Attorney Josh Koshkoff, who represented family members of the victims, tried relating Lanza’s purported fascination with violent video games and military paraphernalia to his purchase of the AR-15.
“He was obsessed with the military and aspired to join the elite Army Rangers unit,” Koskoff said. “Rather than submit to rigorous mental health screening […] Lanza chose a simpler path: unfettered access to the Bushmaster.”
Both groups of plaintiffs – family members and physicians – are trying to argue that Remington’s marketing and sales tactics violated negligent entrustment laws, which prohibit companies from knowingly selling products to groups incapable of using them responsibly and safely.
Current federal laws protect firearms manufacturers from lawsuits related to the criminal use of their products. However, lawyers for the plaintiffs argue their may be an exemption and are asking for the chance to appeal Bellis’s decision.