The Supreme Court has refused to dismiss a suit brought by family members of Sandy Hook victims against Remington Arms Company. The order, published today, denies certiorari but does not provide justification.
Family members of several victims killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre sued Remington in 2014 for the gun company’s alleged culpability in the murders. The Connecticut Supreme Court dismissed much of the families’ case earlier this year, but the court agreed with the portion of the suit that alleged Remington may have engaged in “unethical and irresponsible marketing practices.”
With today’s order from the U.S. Supreme Court, attorneys for the plaintiffs will be able to test whether a gun company can be held liable for how it markets a firearm that is later used in a crime.
Second Amendment Foundation Founder Alan Gottlieb told GunsAmerica via email that the Supreme Court will likely take the case if the lower courts rule against Remington.
Still, he does not find any merit in the narrower suit that was allowed to move forward.
“This suit is just plain wrong and should never have been allowed to proceed,” he said.
In the case’s first major test, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled in a 4-3 decision that Remington cannot be held liable for simply selling its AR-style Bushmaster XM15-E2S rifle that was allegedly used in the Sandy Hook massacre.
But they also ruled that the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) includes an exception that allows the lawsuit to be brought against the company’s marketing practices.
“Congress did not intend to immunize firearms suppliers who engage in truly unethical and irresponsible marketing practices promoting criminal conduct,” the court said. “It falls to a jury to decide whether the promotional schemes alleged in the present case rise to the level of illegal trade practices and whether fault for the tragedy can be laid at their feet.”
At trial, Sandy Hook families cited examples of what they believe are “unethical, oppressive, immoral, and unscrupulous” advertisements that extol the “the militaristic and assaultive qualities of the rifle.” Furthermore, they argued, the Sandy Hook murderer was “especially susceptible to militaristic marketing” due to his aspirations of being in the military.
Gottlieb called that rationale “absurd” at the time.
“Did the advertising even remotely suggest that the Bushmaster is best for murdering people?” he asked. “That’s a stretch of credulity worthy of surgical elastic.”
“There is no evidence the killer was driven by any advertising whatsoever,” he continued. “This is an affront to the First Amendment as well as the Second. 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 Supreme Court has agreed to hear a gun-related case this year out of New York City involving a now-repealed statue that prohibited transporting firearms outside city limits. Depending on how broadly the court rules, the case could affect concealed carry laws across the country.
As always, stay tuned for updates.