HARTFORD, Conn. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A Connecticut judge is hearing arguments on whether to dismiss a lawsuit against the maker of the semiautomatic rifle used by the shooter in them 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
The families of nine children and adults killed at the Newtown school and a teacher who survived are suing Remington Arms, the parent company of Bushmaster Firearms, which made the AR-15-style rifle used in the shooting. The case is being heard in Bridgeport, where the company was once headquartered.
The plaintiffs said the company knew the rifle was meant for the military and too dangerous to sell to civilians. They claim that selling it to civilians amounts to “negative entrustment” — a legal term that says misuse can be reasonably anticipated, CBS2’s Lou Young reported.
“Remington left Bridgeport about 20 years ago with a main factory here where they made mostly hunting rifles; they weren’t in the assault weapons business and they left town and they didn’t look back,” the plaintiff’s attorney, Josh Koskoff said.
The families said that Remington aggressively marketed and sold the AR-15 for its mass casualty applications with ads like, “The forces of opposition will bow down.”
“The AR-15 is to a firearm is to a tank is to a car,” Kaskoff said. “It is the most dangerous, lethal instrument readily available to the civilian population.”
Attorney James Vogts argued Monday that the lawsuit should be dismissed on several technical grounds, including that it is barred by a 2005 federal law that shields gun manufacturers from liability. The gun company will further argue that a loophole the families are trying to exploit does not apply, because the manufacturer transfer and sale of the assault rifle used by the shooter were done legally.
“These are legislative decisions. They are best equipped to deal with policy judgments. They are a democratic process,” Vogts said. “A personal injury case in front of a jury is not going to replace on who should own firearms and what type of firearms.”
Remington does not comment on litigation, but their attorney said it’s a matter for Congress and the Legislature to handle who gets guns and who doesn’t, Young reported.
The gun store’s lawyer points out that Adam Lanza, who gunned down 26 people at Sandy Hook, wasn’t even the gun’s owner.
“I’m not sure that Nancy Lanza had knowledge that her son had mental defects or deficiencies,” Riverview Sales attorney Peter Berry said. “He apparently killed her to obtain possession of a weapon.”
The judge wondered aloud if the case had parallels with early lawsuits against the tobacco industry. She will decide if it goes forward.
The Newtown families are seeking more details of Remington’s marketing strategy. The company is expected to file a legal response to that portion of the case next month.
The families see similarities with the mass shooting last week in Orlando at the gay nightclub Pulse.
“So many families have to go through that process in this country because our country cannot come together on the issue of assault rifles,” Matthew Soto, the brother of Vickie Soto who was killed at Sandy Hook, said.
The future of the case in Connecticut Superior Court could have national implications, WCBS 880’s Sean Adams reported.
It could take months for the judge to decide whether the case will go to trial.
On Dec. 14, 2012, Lanza, 20, shot and killed 26 first-graders and educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Lanza killed his mother before the school shooting and killed himself afterward. Last year, more than a dozen victims’ families split $1.5 million under settlements of lawsuits filed against the estate of the gunman’s mother.
(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)