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Firearms Advocacy Groups Respond To Sandy Hook School Gun Lawsuit Appeal



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Two firearms advocacy groups recently offered responses to a legal action, through which the families of nine Sandy Hook School shooting victims and one survivor appealed to, and had their appeal accepted by, Connecticut's Supreme Court. The groups issued statements before the Supreme Court accepted the appeal, and following the October dismissal of a state Superior Court wrongful death lawsuit against the manufacturer of the military-style semiautomatic rifle that was used in the December 2012 school killings.

The plaintiffs' dismissed lawsuit alleges, in part, that the rifle used in the shooting was negligently entrusted to the public, and that the defendants violated the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA) in aggressively and unethically marketing the rifle to the public. The prime defendant in the lawsuit is Bushmaster Firearms International, LLC, among other firearms-related firms.

Connecticut Carry, Inc, a North Branford-based nonprofit gun rights advocacy group, said, "We feel nothing but sorrow and empathy for the families of Newtown, Connecticut, that went through such horrific loss during the mass murder that occurred in the Sandy Hook Elementary School.

"There is a line, however, that the rest of the citizens of Connecticut and across the nation do not want to see crossed, And that is where their rights are placed in jeopardy because of the actions of a single mentally deranged human being. We are individuals with rights and no matter what emotional charge is brought to bear... we maintain and defend those rights," according to the group.

"We believe the families of the victims are being pushed by political interests to make legal assaults against business owners inside and outside of Connecticut that are protected under longstanding and established laws," according to Connecticut Carry.

In its statement, the organization said that there are two likely explanations for such legal actions. One is that naming businesses as defendants in such court cases amounts to a defacto financial penalty in the form of the cost of a legal defense, according to Connecticut Carry.

The group adds that the more likely goal of such legal actions is to have the plaintiffs lose the case, thus allowing members of Congress to use emotionally charged arguments in seeking to change a law such as the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), a 2005 federal law that generally protects firearms manufacturers and dealers from being held liable when crimes are committed with their products.

In response to the plaintiffs' legal appeal, a spokesman for the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), a Newtown-based trade association for the firearms industry, said that the group would no have comment beyond what it said in October when a Superior Court judge dismissed the gun lawsuit.

At that time, NSSF General Counsel Larry Keane said, "The court ruled as it should in this case... We are again reminded of the bulwark that the PLCAA provided the industry against unreasonable litigation of this type."

The lawyers who defended the firearms firms named in the lawsuit "deserve special recognition for their outstanding work in successfully arguing for their clients in this important case," according to NSSF.

Describing the shooting incident as a "singular event in Connecticut history," the plaintiffs' appeal asks that the state Supreme Court decide whether the sellers of the weapon used in the shooting can be held accountable for the deadly incident under the terms of applicable Connecticut law.

The Appeal

The appeal states in part, "The loss of twenty first-graders and six educators would shake any community to its core. [Our community] had to grapple with the manner in which those lives were lost. Children and teachers were gunned down in classrooms and hallways with a weapon that was designed for our armed forces and engineered to deliver maximum carnage. The assault was so rapid that no police force on earth could have been expected to stop it.

"Fifty-pound bodies were riddled with five, eleven, even thirteen bullets. This is not sensationalism. It is the reality the defendants created when they chose to sell a weapon of war and aggressively market its assaultive capabilities," the legal papers add.

"Ten families who paid the price for those choices seek accountability through Connecticut common [law] and statutory law. It is only appropriate that Connecticut's highest court decide whether these families have the right to proceed," the appeal states.

The families' appeal asks the Supreme Court to consider the scope of the common law of negligent entrustment in Connecticut and its application to circumstances and technology that could not have been contemplated when applicable law was enacted, according to the plaintiffs. In the appeal, the plaintiffs argue that the meaning of certain language in CUTPA must be determined by the state Supreme Court.

A gunman killed 26 people, including 20 first-graders and six adults, at Sandy Hook School on December 14, 2012, before killing himself as police approached. The gunman had killed his mother at their Sandy Hook home before shooting his way into the school.

Through their lawsuit, the plaintiffs seek monetary damages, punitive damages, attorneys' fees, costs, and injunctive relief.

Connecticut's Supreme Court
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