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How Far Removed Is a Gun Manufacturer from a Mass Shooting: The Sandy Hook Lawsuit

The families of the slaughtered Sandy Hook children sued Remington. The Connecticut Supreme Court sided with the families.

In 2012, Adam Lanza murdered Twenty-Six children and his own mother. The very mention of Sandy Hook reminds us of the utter depravity of mass shooters.  There is an inherent need to see justice done.

Adam Lanza shot himself in the head.

While that is obviously preferable to having to keep the psycho alive for trial and endless appeals, it lacks the sense of final justice conveyed by a state sanctioned execution. Connecticut has no death penalty so Adam Lanza would have been kept alive if he hadn’t shot himself.

This inability to see justice done contributes to an atmosphere where someone, anyone, must be held morally and legally responsible for this heinous crime. Almost seven years later, the families of the victims are trying to hold gun manufacturer Remington responsible for what Adam Lanza did.

The Hartford Courant has the story, “In a 4-3 decision the court remanded the landmark gun case back to Bridgeport Superior Court and possibly created a path that other mass shooting victims can follow to get around the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, known as PLCAA, which has protected the manufacturers of the AR-15 assault rifle from lawsuits.”

The goal is to permit discovery, where documents and memos from Remington can be brought up in future lawsuits.  The families believe that Remington advertised the weapon knowing that “high-risk individuals” would purchase it.

“There is a reason why this particular consumer product is the one that is used by people who want to inflict the most damage and we have seen it time and time again since my son and his classmates were killed,” said David Wheeler, whose son Ben was killed in the Sandy Hook attack. “That reason very likely potentially resides in the documents that we have been unable to look at until now.”

The Courant adds this regarding state law, “The court ruled that the Sandy Hook families should have the opportunity to prove that Remington violated the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA) by marketing what it knew was a weapon designed for military use to civilians such as Nancy and Adam Lanza.”

The ruling said, “We further conclude that PLCAA does not bar the plaintiffs from proceeding on the single, limited theory that the defendants violated CUTPA by marketing the XM15- E2S to civilians for criminal purposes, and that those wrongful marketing tactics caused or contributed to the Sandy Hook massacre, Accordingly, on the basis of that limited theory, we conclude that the plaintiffs have pleaded allegations sufficient to survive a motion to strike and are entitled to have the opportunity to prove their wrongful marketing allegations,”

As the case moves forward we can look at this analysis provided by the Hartford Courant, “Legal experts said the case will come down to how the state Supreme Court will interpret two possible exceptions allowed under the arms act — whether Remington can be held liable for so-called “negligent entrustment” or whether it violated the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act. Negligent entrustment is defined as “supplying of a qualified product by a seller for use by another person when the seller knows, or reasonably should know, the person to whom the product is supplied is likely to, and does, use the product in a manner involving unreasonable risk of physical injury to the person or others.”

There are several points that need to be addressed.  Every premise of this lawsuit is flawed.  If it goes forward it will be as a result of liberal judicial policy making.

1: It is a consumer product frequently sold to inflict the most damage.

2: It is design for military use; not for civilians.

3: Remington caused or contributed to this shooting under the CUTPA.

4: Remington is guilty of negligent entrustment under the PLCAA.

All of these points are related so I will do my best to address them individually without overlapping analysis.

The first claim was made by the father of one of the victims and it represents a tired trope of the gun control movement.  It is that the AR-15 and similar firearms are used repeatedly in mass shootings, warranting their removal from polite society.  We know that this is a trivialization of data.  The news media focuses on the stories it wants to so the narrative is reinforced anytime a mass shooting occurs with an AR.  When we look at the data provided by the left leaning Mother Jones, we see that the facts do not support that narrative.  Of the 110 mass shootings listed from 1982 until 2019, only forty of them involved rifles. The Washington Post shared this data several years ago and the point remains, rifles are not used in a majority of mass shootings. Statista affirms this as well. Mother Jones provides an explanation as to how it goes about compiling its data.  A closer inspection reveals several problems.  One, the use of a rifle in a mass shooting does not mean that it is an “assault weapon.”  Two, some shooters used multiple types of firearms, which should make us wonder whether that shooting would have occurred with or without the rifle.  Back to the types of rifles used.  Seventeen were an AR platform.  Thirteen were variants of the AK.  Two were mini-14s, which could be define as an assault weapon depending on how Dianne Feinstein is feeling on a particular day. Two more were “rifles” chambered in 9mm. And the remaining eight were either .22 or some other “traditional” rifle that never meets the criteria of being an “assault weapon.” In a vast majority of shootings and most of the time even when a rifle is present, pistols are the favored weapon of mass shooters.  I feel sorry that this dad has to live with the loss of a child, but loss does not insulate him from the need to be accurate.  The media and the left in general are clueless beyond all measure when it comes to firearms.  We get debates regarding bullet velocity and the associated danger with a super-duper fast round. I wrote about that here, back in November. I said, “The .45 has more stopping power because of its mass, but I don’t think that alone can qualify it as “high powered” If idiots in the media think a gun is more dangerous because of the bullet velocity, as if you could outrun a 9mm round as opposed to 5.56, you’re golden with .45.” Firearm owners, enthusiasts, and those who care about facts have to debase themselves to address the tired tropes of the gun control left.

The second claim deals with the idea that civilians should not own “assault weapons.” New England is terrible on gun laws and is not representative of the nation. Throw in Illinois and California and you’ve got yourself the epitome of gun control.  In order to prevail on this advertising malpractice angle, the victims’ families have to show that Remington advertised a weapon they knew to be “military quality” to the general public. This is problematic for two reasons.  One, let’s concede for argument sake that it is military quality.  It was not proscribed by state law, by the NFA or by the GCA at the time. There was no legal designation at the time that supported this idea that it was for military purposes since military quality weapons have always been heavily regulated.  Two, there is no reason to address that first point because they are not military quality. I wrote about Senator Feinstein’s Assault Weapons Ban necromancy here.  That article attempts to address each criterion for what makes a gun an assault weapon. Long story short, each definition is idiotic and not attached to reality.  There is no such thing as an “assault weapon,” and any gun that is worth banning has already been banned under existing legislation. The media doesn’t know this since they think if a gun looks the same, it must be the same.  Geniuses at the New York Times wrote that Adam Lanza used an M4 carbine, which IS a military weapon capable of firing in bursts or full-auto depending on the variant.  As I look at that article, two corrections have been attached to it; nothing about the firearm has been corrected.  Adam Lanza used a Bushmaster XM-15.

The last two claims are quite similar because the last claim can only go forward if the third claim prevails.  This third claim assumes that my analysis in point two would fail.  So, if we assume that Remington DID market a military weapon to civilians, conceding the entirety of the advertising malpractice shtick, then the victims’ families could only prevail IF they showed that such advertisement caused or contributed to Adam Lanza’s shooting.  Depending on the standard, a Connecticut State Court might find that it was a contributing factor, but when we take it all the way to the standards of the PLCAA and “negligent entrustment,” we find a lack of a proximate cause.  Here is what that means. There has to be a sufficient connection between the alleged negligent action of the defendant and someone else’s evil act.  The assertion is that Remington was negligent by providing Adam Lanza with one of their rifles.  Proximate cause wants to look into the chain of events that contributed to the evil act. And in this case, we see a chain that gets pretty long the more you look at it.  The victims’ families would have us and the courts believe that Remington personally sold Adam Lanza that firearm knowing full well his mental instability and propensity for violence.  Yet that is detached from any semblance of the truth.  According to the New York Times, Adam Lanza did not purchase the firearms he used.  He stole them from his mother.  That simple fact separates Remington from any liability; they didn’t sell the gun to Lanza regardless of what they were advertising or selling.  But we also have to remember that firearm owners rarely purchase a firearm directly from the manufacturer. Not only did Remington not sell the firearm to Adam, Remington had nothing to do with selling the firearm to his mother.  She purchased it legally and even registered it.  That provides additional separation between Remington and Adam Lanza.  This is what we end up with…

Remington > Seller > Nancy Lanza (who had every right to purchase and own firearms) > Adam Lanza (who had to kill his mother to get the firearms)

The only proximate cause I can see is Nancy Lanza’s negligence in permitting her son to have constructive possession of her firearms.  The victims’ families should sue her, but they can’t since she’s dead.

Remington is so detached from this shooting that this lawsuit should not go forward.  While I understand giving citizens the opportunity to find a remedy at law, that opportunity itself leads one to conclude that the plaintiffs could prevail.  They should not be able to.


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