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Sandy Hook Families Push To Hold Gun Maker Accountable In Court

Josh Koskoff, a lawyer representing the families of Sandy Hook shooting victims, appeared at the Connecticut Supreme Court in November 2017. Photo by Patrick Skahill for WNPR

Josh Koskoff, a lawyer representing the families of Sandy Hook shooting victims, appeared at the Connecticut Supreme Court in November 2017. Photo by Patrick Skahill for WNPR

The Connecticut Supreme Court is likely to decide this week whether to allow 10 families of victims in the 2012 Newtown school shooting to sue Remington, the company that manufactured the assault-style rifle used in the massacre. Law experts say if the case moves forward, it would be the furthest a lawsuit has gone involving a gun manufacturer since Congress passed a law in 2005 that broadly protects gun makers from lawsuits.

It took five minutes for a young man with a gun to kill 20 students and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School. He fired a Bushmaster assault-style rifle with a 30-round magazine clip.

Mark Barden, who lost his son, Daniel, to the gun, said, “This is an instrument of war designed for the battlefield that is sold and marketed to the general public.”

Barden and the other families argue that they can sue the gun maker, Remington, for marketing a deadly weapon to civilians under a Connecticut consumer protection law.

However, Victor Schwartz, who wrote one of the most-taught books on the kind of law that protects consumers and corporations from physical or financial harm, said, “I have never seen it used in this context, and I’ve written extensively about consumer protection acts.”

Schwartz says a federal law protects gun manufacturers from being sued in most cases when a gun seller knows or should’ve known that a person would use the gun to cause harm. That’s because the gun makers don’t know the people that buy their product. Here’s another example.

“You have a car and you give it to somebody who’s drunk. And then they drive, and if they kill somebody, even though you’re not even in the car, you’re liable. But Ford Motor Company is not subject to liability if a car is used to kill somebody by a drunk driver. And that’s why the manufacturers of guns are not subject to liability.”

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