Newtown Families' Lawyers See Loophole To Sue Gun Manufacturers

Nov 14, 2017

Mark Barden, whose son Daniel (far left) was among the children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School, has become an advocate for gun control.
Credit Mark Barden

On Tuesday, lawyers representing the families of several victims of the 2012 Newtown school shooting will ask Connecticut’s Supreme Court for a chance to sue Remington, the company that makes the Bushmaster AR-15 rifle used in the shooting. A lower court judge had ruled that a federal law protects the gun manufacturer from being sued. 

The families’ lawyers argue that this case falls under an exception in that law. It’s called negligent entrustment. That’s if a gun manufacturer foresaw that an injury could happen with its product, then the manufacturer could be liable.

The brief cites a 1970s case in Michigan. A boy hit himself in the face with a rock while he was playing with a slingshot. A judge allowed his family to sue the slingshot manufacturer. The judge thought the company could be negligent because it could reasonably see that children would be incompetent to handle a slingshot safely.

Connecticut’s lower court judge agreed with gun manufacturers that the slingshot case applied to children, so it was different. But plaintiffs plan to argue in Connecticut’s highest court that the gun company has marketed rifles developed for military use to civilians. They argue that ads targeted a “younger demographic.” That includes young men who play first-person shooter video games that feature AR-15 style semi-automatic rifles in combat. 

This report comes from the New England News Collaborative. Eight public media companies, including Rhode Island Public Radio, coming together to tell the story of a changing region, with support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting