Yesterday was the two year anniversary of the date when Adam Lanza stole his mother’s legally owned and registered rifle and used it to commit a mass shooting in Sandy Hook, Connecticut. It was also the deadline for affected persons to file a lawsuit related to the incident, and several of the victims’ families have elected to do so. The primary target for the lawsuit is, for some reason, Bushmaster Firearms.
…Sandy Hook victims’ families have reportedly filed a lawsuit against Bushmaster, the company that made the semi-automatic rifle Adam Lanza carried.
Bushmaster’s sister company Remington is the subject of another class-action lawsuit. The plaintiffs in that suit contend the Model 700 rifle can fire inadvertantly even if the trigger isn’t pulled. But the Newtown families aren’t accusing Bushmaster of making a faulty weapon.
In case you’re wondering where the citizens’ elected representatives come down on the question of such a class action suit, one of their senators is leaving little doubt.
None of the families or their attorneys are commenting, but Conn. Senator Richard Blumenthal is.
“Two years [have] passed and Congress has been complicit in the gun violence in this country by failing to act. And I share the frustration that may in part may underlie the reason for this legal redress,” said Blumenthal.
Families enduring grief or great duress can be expected to lash out and seek someone – anyone – to blame, so it’s not hard to understand how some of them are feeling. But you also need to remember that it’s hard to affix responsibility when the only guilty party is long since dead. Blaming Bushmaster for the killing because Lanza stole a normally functioning XM15-E2S rifle to commit the crime is exactly the same as taking Ginsu to court because your son-in-law came over at Thanksgiving and stabbed you with your boning knife.
So can this suit actually go anywhere?
New York attorney Robert Fellows says the bar is high.
“If you can prove that a manufacturer knew in some way that the gun would end up the hands of a proscribed purchaser, someone who shouldn’t have the gun, you might be able to show liability. But it is going to be very difficult,” he said.
That doesn’t mean that this effort is doomed to fail. To start with, the families aren’t pulling their legal talent from the back bench. They have brought on the services of Michael Koskoff (of Michael Jackson court case fame) and former Hillary Clinton aide Karen Hinton. And there have been similar lawsuits brought successfully in the past, including one against this very company. Following the 2002 beltway sniper shootings, Bushmaster wound up paying a half million dollars in a settlement where they note that they essentially threw up their hands and paid off the plaintiffs to stop the rising court costs in the spiraling legal action.
This is a crazy sounding lawsuit, but we live in an extremely litigious society. Far crazier things have happened.