The families of victims of the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting have been in court, trying to hold the gun company Remington accountable for the impact of the way their weapons are marketed.
On the morning of the 14th December 2012, Adam Lanza entered Sandy Hook elementary school with his mother’s Bushmaster AR-15 rifle and two pistols, and opened fire. He killed 20 children and and six adult staff members, before killing himself.
The AR-15 is built by Remington – the company the families are pursuing in court – and is a “civilian equivalent” of the M-16 rifle widely used by the US military, marketed as “the uncompromising choice when you demand a rifle as mission-adaptable as you”. A similar rifle was used in the mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, in November 2017.
The victims’ families are hoping to gain access to internal marketing documents of gun companies, which will show how gun companies in the USA are marketing military-style guns to civilians. The case was thrown out by a lower court in 2016, but the families are now appealing to the Supreme Court; gun companies in the USA are protected by the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, a piece of legislation introduced in 2005 by George Bush Jr, which prohibits lawsuits against arms manufacturers whose weapons are used in criminal acts but doesn’t protect companies from faulty products. The families are arguing that Remington are guilty of “negligent entrustment”, that the company supplied a weapon to someone they knew was likely to commit a criminal act with it.
In court, the families’ lawyer argued that Remington “had been courting [Lanza] for years… it wasn’t just that they marketed the weapon looking for people with the characteristics of Adam Lanza. It’s that Adam Lanza heard the message, and was driven specifically to the Bushmaster for his weapon for this combat mission.” The companies advertising claimed that “opponents” were “singlehandedly outnumbered” by someone using the AR-15. Other taglines included “Forces of opposition, bow down” and “consider your man card reissued”.
Mark Barden, whose seven year old son Daniel was murdered at Sandy Hook, told The Guardian “They’re not talking about protecting yourself in your home… they are illustrating a combat scenario for people who want to fantasize about being in a combat situation.”