One month from now we will reach the five year anniversary of the horrific mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. By this point you’d think that most of the major questions would have been answered but there’s one piece of unfinished business which is back in front of the state supreme court yet again. A group of nine families has been attempting to sue Remington Arms, the manufacturer of the AR-15-style rifle used in the attack, claiming that their weapon was responsible for the carnage.
That claim has already been shot down in the courts, but we’re back to covering the same ground because the attorneys for the families have developed a new tactic. They’re claiming that the advertising Remington used to promote the Bushmaster firearm was somehow delivering “a message” to the shooter, telling him that it was intended to kill human beings. (Associated Press)
Newtown school shooter Adam Lanza heard the message loud and clear when gun-maker Remington Arms marketed an AR-15-style rifle as an overpowering weapon favored by elite military forces, a lawyer for relatives of some victims of the massacre told the Connecticut Supreme Court on Tuesday…
[Attorney Joshua] Koskoff asked the high court to reinstate a wrongful death lawsuit against Madison, North Carolina-based Remington. He said the Bushmaster rifle and other AR-15-style firearms were designed as military killing machines and are too dangerous for the public, but Remington glorified them and marketed them to a younger demographic that included the 20-year-old Lanza.
“Adam Lanza heard the message,” Koskoff told the justices, whose decision isn’t expected for several months. “They marketed the weapon for exactly what it was. They used images of soldiers in combat. They used slogans invoking battle and high-pressure missions.
Honestly, I fail to see how this argument alters the facts of the matter which scuttled the lawsuit originally. Even a judge who seemed rather sympathetic to their cause found that the company was already protected from this sort of legal attack under the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA). That was put in place precisely to prevent Second Amendment opponents from using these types of back-door attacks to drive firearms manufacturers out of business, thereby reducing the availability of weapons.
Does the type of advertising the company employed alter that scenario? I understand there are laws about truth in advertising and restrictions on which products can advertise in some circumstances, but I’m unsure how that applies here. There might be a truth in advertising question if Remington was actually claiming that U.S. Army Rangers were carrying the Bushmaster (they don’t) but that’s not really what the plaintiffs are driving at. I’ll grant you that some of their ads are kind of cheesy, such as the “Consider Your Man Card Reissued” flyer.
Others use phrasing such as, “Forces of Opposition Bow Down.” Sure, those are hardly themes you’d look for when selling jigsaw puzzles, but they’re marketing firearms. And some people may choose to make the Bushmaster their go-to firearm for self-defense. (Though there are far better options.) It seems a stretch to claim that advertisements suggesting the fact that a firearm might be capable of killing someone prompted the shooter to do something he wasn’t already crazy enough to do to begin with.
It’s going back to the Connecticut state supreme court yet again, apparently. We won’t have an answer for a couple of months unless the justices just shoot this one down right out of the gate, and I wouldn’t count on that.