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The Problem with the Sandy Hook Families' Lawsuit

 
 

There's more than one problem with the lawsuit brought by the families of Sandy Hook Elementary School murder victims against Remington Outdoor Company and its subsidiary Bushmaster Firearms, and it's not just with the safeguards granted by the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which shields gunmakers against lawsuits alleging misuse of their products by third parties.

The main argument of the families — and God bless them and comfort them in their tragic loss — is that Remington markets the AR-15 rifle as a "military-style" weapon to civilians with callous disregard for its uniquely lethal capabilities and knowing full-well the AR-15 is not appropriate for civilian use.

"[Remington] knows that the AR-15's military firepower, unsuited to home defense or recreation, enables an individual in possession of the weapon to inflict unparalleled civilian carnage," the lawsuit alleges. "In order to continue profiting from the sale of AR-15s, [Remington] chose to disregard the unreasonable risks the rifle posed outside of specialized, highly regulated institutions like the armed forces and law enforcement."

The families say that Remington markets its AR-15 used in the 2012 massacre of 20 schoolchildren as a weapon used for military forces, and is therefore negligently selling it to untrained civilians who will misuse it.

"This is a battlefield weapon sold to the general public — this is what happens when the general public gets their hands on this kind of firepower, the manufacturer and distributor should be held accountable," said Mark Barden, whose 7-year-old son Daniel was killed at Sandy Hook.

It is heartbreaking to even contemplate Barden's loss and completely understandable to see these families channel their sadness into action. But the idea that somehow the AR-15 is uniquely a weapon of war and shouldn't be marketed to civilians simply fails the sniff test.

Besides the straw men that the AR-15 isn't suitable for home defense (over 75 percent of AR-15 buyers got one for that reason) nor is it appropriate for recreation (90 percent of AR-15 owners use it for that purpose, including 30 percent who shoot it more than once per month), almost every weapon out there was first developed for the military or is derived from a gun that was.

For example, is the Glock 17 handgun a "military-style weapon" that should be subject to lawsuits like this? It is the choice of the elite U.S. commandos for close-quarters battle and is the most-issued handgun in law enforcement nationwide. Since it was first designed to replace the Austrian military's Walther P38, it is most assuredly a "battlefield weapon," but it's also one of the most commonly-owned handguns for personal protection and competition in America.

Should the Remington 700 bolt-action .308 caliber rifle be subject to the same standard? It is a single shot, magazine-fed long gun that has been the gold standard for the world's most lethal snipers — both military and law enforcement — for decades. But it is also by far one of the most popular bolt-action rifles for hunting in America, if not the world. It fires a heavier round than the AR-15 and is lethal out to well-over 1,000 yards. Should Remington stop selling the 700 to civilians?

How about the Beretta M9, the standard-issued handgun for most U.S. military forces? It was designed for accuracy at moderate handgun ranges, is easy to to shoot and carries 15 rounds of 9mm ammunition. It was designed in the mid-1980s specifically for the U.S. military to replace the M1911 handgun and is often marketed to consumers as the military's go-to pistol. So is Beretta irresponsibly marketing its military handgun to untrained civilians?

The current suit brought against Remington and its subsidiaries has already bounced around several jurisdictions and the gunmaker is trying to get a Connecticut state court to dismiss the the case based on the 2005 Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. After hearing the arguments February 22 in Bridgeport, Judge Barbara Bellis said she'll rule within 60 days whether the case should go to trial.

The manufacturer's argument that the PLCAA shields the company from such lawsuits might be enough, but if the Sandy Hook families are able to convince Bellis that Remington is liable under so-called "negligent entrustment" — that they sold the firearm knowing the buyer would misuse it — then the case could call into question the legality of many more firearms than the AR-15.

Source: http://www.weeklystandard.com/print/the-problem-with-the-sandy-hook-families-lawsuit/article/2001233