Judge Hears Arguments on Dismissing Sandy Hook Parents’ AR-15 Lawsuit

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (The Hartford Courant/TNS) -

A judge heard arguments Monday on whether to dismiss a lawsuit filed by families of victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre against the manufacturer of the gun used to kill 20 first-graders and six adults.

Ten plaintiffs are suing the Remington Arms Co., maker of the Bushmaster AR-15, similar to the gun used in the Orlando shooting where 49 people were killed. No decision was made Monday.

A number of family members attended the hearing in Superior Court. The brother of Victoria Soto, one of the teachers killed at the Newtown school, spoke to reporters before the court proceedings. He addressed the recent Orlando shooting, saying he “felt sadness, grief, disgust.”

“No one should ever be put on that position again,” said Matthew Soto.

The defendants, including a distributor and dealer, contend they are immune to lawsuits under the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.

Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis in May ruled attorneys for the families can proceed in obtaining internal documents from Remington.

The lawsuit accuses the Remington Arms Co. and other defendants of negligently selling a weapon to civilians that the plaintiffs claim is suitable only for the military and law enforcement. The lawsuit alleges that the Bushmaster, a semi-automatic rifle similar in appearance to fully automatic military rifles, was marketed in a militaristic fashion that appealed to those intent on inflicting mass casualties.

“How did a weapon used in Vietnam and streets of Fallujah end up on the floor of Vicky Soto’s first-grade classroom?” Josh Koskoff, an attorney for the family members, asked during Monday’s hearing.

Remington attorney James Vogt told Bellis, “A personal injury case before a jury isn’t the place to debate gun laws. We would have piecemeal law made by juries.”

Vogt asked the judge what case the federal law would prohibit if not this one. He said the PLCAA was enacted for this very case.

Court filings indicate the plaintiffs want Remington to produce all documents showing how the company uses video games to promote the weapon, any internet advertising done to promote the weapon for home defense use or as gifts, and the company’s policies going back to its inception on gun safety and gun storage.

The suit includes references to advertising copy for Bushmaster rifles, including such lines as “the uncompromising choice when you demand a rifle as mission-adaptable as you are” and “Forces of opposition, bow down. You are single-handedly outnumbered.”

Gun rights advocates have countered that AR-style rifles — despite their military appearance — are no more dangerous than typical wooden-stock semi-automatic rifles and that efforts to restrict so-called assault weapons confuse cosmetics with lethality. The families are seeking reams of documents detailing how the Remington Arms Co. marketed the gun, who it marketed to and how many were sold in the six years before the shooting.

As part of their argument, Remington submitted firearms transaction records of the mother of Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza with Riverview Sales, which is also a party to the lawsuit. The firearms transaction documents show Nancy Lanza had a valid gun permit until October 2015.

The records show she purchased the Bushmaster that Adam Lanza used in the shooting on March 29, 2010. A second firearms transaction document dated March 16, 2011, shows she purchased the Sig Sauer pistol Adam Lanza used to kill himself inside the Newtown school after his massacre ended.

On Dec. 14, 2012, Adam Lanza killed his mother with a rifle while she slept in her bedroom in their home. He then proceeded to the Sandy Hook Elementary School, shot his way through the front door and killed 26 people, including 20 first-graders, before killing himself.