The Connecticut Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that gunmaker Remington Outdoor Co. can be sued over the marketing of the semi-automatic rifle used in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 that left 20 children and six teachers dead.
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The court was split 4-3 in the deciding the case, which was brought by relatives of several of the individuals killed in the shooting. The plaintiffs argued that Remington, in selling the Bushmaster rifle, “negligently entrusted to civilian consumers an assault rifle that is suitable for use only by military and law enforcement personnel.”
At the heart of the argument was the extent of a federal law shielding firearm manufacturers from liability when illegal activity is conducted with their products. The majority decided that “Congress did not intend to immunize firearms suppliers who engage in truly unethical and irresponsible marketing.”
“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,” the ruling reads.
The plaintiffs alleged that Remington promoted the Bushmaster AR-15 style rifle for use against "perceived enemies," an argument a majority of the judges said deserved further scrutiny.
"If the defendants did indeed seek to expand the market for their assault weapons through advertising campaigns that encouraged consumers...to launch offensive assaults against their perceived enemies, then we are aware of nothing in" the law to shield Remington from liability, the ruling reads.