Shootings Put Semi Automatic Rifles Ads Under New Scrutiny
In this photo taken Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017, a magazine advertisement for an AR-style firearm describes the ability to customize the firearm and shows soldiers in combat. AR-platform firearms are often marketed using words that emphasizes the firearm’s ability to be customized and evoke a sense of patriotism, freedom and military strength. (AP Photo/Lisa Marie Pane)
Not sure many are aware that the Sandy Hook victims families are trying once again to sue Remington / Bushmaster. This time around they are making the case that the Bushmaster AR-15 advertising proves in Bushmasters own words that the AR-15 the AR-15 is a military weapon designed for the battlefield. This naturally means in their eyes that these weapons do not belong in the hands of civilians.
Who knows how this will turn out but if the court hears this case and a jury agrees with the the Sandy Hook attorneys the implications would reach well beyond the firearms industry.
Read the three articles below
Shootings Put Semi Automatic Rifles Ads Under New Scrutiny
The ads leap out from the pages of almost any gun magazine: Soldiers wearing greasepaint and camouflage wield military-style rifles depicted as essential to the American way of life. A promotional spot by the Mossberg brand boasts of weapons “engineered to the specs of freedom and independence.”
The ad campaigns by major gun makers did not pause after mass shootings at a Las Vegas country music concert and a Texas church, and the slick messages are big drivers of sales ahead of Black Friday, by far the heaviest shopping day each year for firearms.
But the marketing tactics for the semi-automatic weapons known as AR rifles are under new scrutiny following the recent attacks. Gun-control activists say the ads risk inspiring the next shooter, while gun-rights advocates insist the weapons are being blamed for the works of deranged individuals.
“Guns are not sold on the basis of being just tools,” said gun industry expert Adam Winkler, a professor at the University of California Los Angeles School of Law and author of a book about the Second Amendment. “They’re being sold as an embodiment of American values.”
The advertisements have become a focal point in the court case against a gun company over the 2012 massacre at a Connecticut elementary school where gunman Adam Lanza used a Bushmaster AR-15-style rifle to kill 20 children and six adults. Bushmaster has advertised its AR weapons with the slogan “consider your man card reissued.”
Relatives of the Sandy Hook victims alleged in a lawsuit that the maker of the Bushmaster was negligent by marketing military-style weapons to young people who may be unstable and intent on inflicting mass casualties. The lawsuit against Remington Arms was dismissed because of broad immunity granted to the gun industry, but the Connecticut Supreme Court is weighing whether to reinstate it.
“They used images of soldiers in combat. They used slogans invoking battle and high-pressure missions,” Joshua Koskoff, a lawyer for the families, told justices at a hearing. “Remington may never have known Adam Lanza, but they had been courting him for years.”
Most mass shootings — defined by federal authorities as involving four or more deaths outside the home — are carried out with handguns. But this year, gunmen have used AR-style firearms in mass shootings in Las Vegas, Texas and Northern California. They were also used in the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting and in 2015 in San Bernardino, California.
The rifles are involved in only a small percentage of gun deaths each year. Of the approximately 13,000 gun deaths excluding suicides that happen annually in the United States, about 300 involve the use of rifles — both AR-style and more traditional long guns.
To Erich Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, gun-control advocates focus on vilifying the weapon and not the people behind the crimes. And, he notes, the gunman in Texas who killed more than two dozen churchgoers was pursued by a man nearby who shot at him with his own AR rifle.
“Here’s another attempt to demonize a weapon that a lot of Americans look to for self-defensive purposes,” Pratt said. Yet it was another man with an AR-15 who is “the one who’s hailed for having stopped the guy.”
An estimated 8 million AR-style guns have been sold since they were introduced to the public in the 1960s. The name refers to ArmaLite Rifle, a nod to the now-defunct company that designed the first one. The industry calls them “modern sporting rifles” or “tactical rifles.”
About half are owned by current or former members of the military or law enforcement, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which represents gun makers.
Their marketing, coupled with the lifting of a decade-long ban and the return of many veterans who used them on deployments, have helped drive their popularity. Gun sales leveled off this past year after nearly a decade of record-breaking numbers, but the industry is banking on the allure of the AR — and its many accessories — to keep it going.
The weapons are known as easy to use, easy to clean and easy to modify with a variety of scopes, stocks and rails. Accordingly, a Sig Sauer ad plays up the ability to customize its AR-style weapons, showing an image of soldiers holed up in a building in the midst of battle.
“The reason these guns have become so popular is because they’re like an iPhone 10,” Winkler said. “They’re smooth, sleek, cool-looking.”
Once the domain of smaller gun dealers, the weapons are now widely sold by huge retailers such as Walmart, Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops. Those companies are also selling more weapons to first-time gun buyers, said Rommel Dionisio, who has watched the industry closely as a financial analyst and managing director of Aegis Capital Corp.
Sales of military-style rifles plummeted in 2017 compared with a year earlier, when people were stocking up amid fears that a Hillary Clinton presidency would lead to stricter gun laws. Donald Trump’s surprise election victory erased those fears but left the gun industry with an oversupply and weak demand.
American Outdoor Brands, which includes Smith & Wesson firearms, reported in September that quarterly revenue in its long guns category dropped by 64 percent from the prior year due to lower demand for its modern sporting rifles. The company reported shipping 51,000 long guns in that period compared with 111,000 the prior year.
Against that backdrop, many gun companies have cut prices, offered rebates and slowed their manufacturing. Some makers of AR-15 rifles dropped prices earlier this year to as low as $399 — a level that would have been unheard of a year before.
“It really is a buyer’s market out there right now,” Sturm, Ruger & Company Inc. CEO Christopher Killoy told analysts on a recent conference call.
Those deals come with a steady dose of ads that highlight the patriotic notions of carrying an AR.
“That’s what they’re emphasizing, that these are sort of a lifestyle weapon,” Winkler said. “This is a weapon you buy if you’re a patriotic guy who loves the idea of those military shooters, someone who would use your guns to defend your nation.”
Fate of Sandy Hook lawsuit against gun maker could be decided by a slingshot
Connecticut’s highest court heard arguments Tuesday over whether the families of victims of the Sandy Hook school massacre can revive their lawsuit against the company that made the rifle that Adam Lanza used to kill 20 schoolchildren and six adults in 2012.
A state Superior Court judge last year dismissed the suit, which was brought by relatives of nine people who were killed and one person who survived the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown on Dec. 14, 2012. The judge cited a federal law that broadly prohibits lawsuits against gun makers and dealers when a weapon functions “as designed and intended.”
Attorneys for the families argued in court documents and in the Connecticut Supreme Court in Hartford on Tuesday that an exception to the 2005 law allows lawsuits against companies that know or should reasonably be expected to know that their products are likely to be used “in a manner involving unreasonable risk of physical injury to the person or others.”
It’s a claim called “negligent entrustment,” and it has often been argued in cases involving unlicensed or reckless drivers who cause injuries when they’re driving someone else’s vehicle.
Josh Koskoff, an attorney for the Sandy Hook families, and other legal experts said the Remington suit is believed to be the first to have been filed under the gun law exception.
Like David in the Bible, the plaintiffs are trying to bring down a giant with a slingshot.
The Sandy Hook suit cites a 1977 case, Moning v. Alfono, in which the Michigan Supreme Court allowed a lawsuit to proceed against the company that made high-speed slingshots. An 11-year-old boy used one of the company’s slingshots to fire a pellet that ricocheted off a tree and struck his 12-year-old friend in the eye.
The court found that even though the manufacturer had no knowledge of or connection to the boy who fired the pellet, it marketed its slingshot to young children and should have foreseen that young children could be use it to fire pellets in a dangerous manner.
That was important enough, the court said, that a trial was appropriate to weigh whether the manufacturer was at fault for the 12-year-old boy’s injury.
Likewise, Koskoff told the Connecticut court on Tuesday, Remington marketed its Bushmaster XM15-E2S directly at people like Adam Lanza — people whom the lawsuit describes as young men “obsessed with the military,” specifically elite units like the Army Rangers, and “uninterested in hunting or target shooting” (italics in original).
“Now, Remington may never have known Adam Lanza, but they had been courting him for years,” Vogts told the justices on Tuesday. “And the courtship between Remington and Adam Lanza is at the heart if this case.”
But James Vogts, an attorney for Remington, argued that the 2005 law is clear: Manufacturers and sellers aren’t liable when their weapons work the way they’re designed to work.
“No matter how tragic, no matter how much we wish those children and their teachers were not lost and their families had not suffered, the law needs to be applied,” Vogts told the court. “Under the law — federal law and Connecticut law — the manufacturers and sellers are not responsible for the crimes and the harm they cause.”
After the hearing, Ian Hockley — whose son Dylan was killed — told reporters: “We, the plaintiff families of the victims of the Sandy Hook School massacre, have infinite patience to see justice done and utmost faith in the legal system to serve the people it is meant to protect. We have not lost one ounce of confidence in the justness of our case.”
The suit seeks unspecified damages.
Lawyer says gun ad swayed Sandy Hook killer to buy AR-15
Remington attorney James Vogts acknowledged the AR-15 was aggressively marketed, but insisted the manufacturer bore no legal liability for the mass shooting.
“Obviously, all products’ manufacturers are trying to sell to the market,” Vogts told the panel of judges. “The purpose is to sell products. Emotional ads are commercial speech. They are under First Amendment protection.”
Ian Hockley, whose son Dylan was among the slain schoolkids, accused Remington of marketing a battlefield weapon to a civilian market without regard for the deadly consequences.
“They could not care less what happens to their guns once the cash is in the bank, showing utter disregard for the lives this weapon takes and the families it destroys,” Hockley said.
“They actively market the weapons to unstable individuals. Take for instance their advertisement ‘consider your man card reissued.’ What could be more negligent than that?”
No ruling was anticipated for several months in a case that drew national attention from groups on either side of the contentious gun control debate.
The courtroom was packed with the loved ones of shooting victims and attorneys for special interest groups like the National Rifle Association.
Mass shooters, most recently including the killer of 26 people inside a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, used similar weapons in their attacks.
The plaintiffs charge the AR-15, initially designed for use by the military, was inappropriately marketed for sale to the general public.
North Carolina-based Remington argued successfully in previous hearings that the guns are legal and the company is protected by the 2005 federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.
The case brought by the Newtown group was dismissed 13 months ago by a lower Connecticut court that agreed with Remington’s assertion.
The legislation generally protects weapons companies from liability for criminal use of their guns.
“What happened in that school that morning was horrific,” Vogts said. “It was a tragedy that will not be forgotten … Under the law, under federal law, under Connecticut law, the manufacturer of the product used by the criminal are not responsible for his crimes.”
Speaking outside court, Koskoff said the marketing scheme created by Remington indicated the lack of a moral compass within the company — and its management should be held responsible.
“What kind of society do we live in if the manufacturer has no skin in the game?” asked Koskoff. “What we have here is the conduct of a company that thought it was above the law.”
Vogts, in his argument to the court, put a far less menacing spin on AR-15 owners.
“This rifle is owned by millions of Americans across the country for hunting, target shooting and home protection,” he said.