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Gun-maker can be sued over Sandy Hook shooting for how rifle was advertised, court rules

Connecticut Supreme Court issued the split decision

Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A divided Connecticut Supreme Court ruled Thursday that gun manufacturer Remington can be sued for alleged wrongful marketing of its Bushmaster AR-15 rifle, which was used in the mass murder of children and teachers at Newtown's Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.

What are the details?

A lower court judge previously threw out a wrongful death lawsuit against the company, saying it violated a 2005 federal law called the Protection of Lawful Commerce Act. Justices reversed that ruling in a 4-3 decision, with the majority agreeing that under Connecticut's advertising laws, firearm companies may be held liable, The Associated Press reported.

Remington is being sued by the relatives of nine victims who were murdered in the massacre, and by one survivor. On Dec. 14, 2012, 20 children and six educators were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Attorney Joshua Koskoff, who represents the plaintiffs, told the AP, "The families' goal has always been to shed light on Remington's calculated and profit-driven strategy to expand the AR-15 market and court high-risk users, all at the expense of Americans' safety.

"Today's decision is a critical step toward achieving that goal," he added.

The lawsuit alleges that Remington has "for years sold AR-15s in a manner that foreseeably leads to the use of those weapons by unauthorized and unsafe users" by marketing them as weapons used by soldiers in battle.

The plaintiffs argue that the gun-maker "attract[ed] buyers by extolling the militaristic and assaultive qualities of their AR-15 rifles" by "advertising that the most elite branches of the military — including Special Forces, SEALs, Green Berets, and Army Rangers — have used them.

"A Bushmaster product catalog shows soldiers moving on patrol through jungles, armed with Bushmaster rifles," the lawsuit notes. "Superimposed over the silhouette of a soldier holding his helmet against the backdrop of an American flag is text that reads: 'When you need to perform under pressure, Bushmaster delivers.'"

A majority of Connecticut's high court agreed, citing the state's Unfair Trade Practices Act. In defending the ruling, Justice Richard Palmer wrote, "The regulation of advertising that threatens the public's health, safety, and morals has long been considered a core exercise of the states' police powers."

The dissenting justices argued that the majority was misreading the federal shield law in this "national question of first impression," the Washington Post reported.

Anything else?

Remington filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last year amid falling sales, heavy debts, and lawsuits against the firm. The company did not comment on Thursday's ruling.

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