The Supreme Court doesn’t hear every case brought before it. It decides which cases it wants to hear and which cases it doesn’t. Ever since the McDonald decision almost a decade ago, though, the Court has been reticent to hear any further cases on the good old Second Amendment. Countless others have been declined.
However, this year, the Court will hear a Second Amendment case coming out of New York City.
Does that mean that the seal is broken and the Court will start hearing Second Amendment cases? Well, Remington most assuredly hopes so.
The Supreme Court will consider this week whether to hear a case seeking to pierce firearm manufacturers’ legal immunity in the aftermath of shootings.
The case, Remington Arms Co. v. Soto, pits relatives of those killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting against Remington, the maker of the AR-15-style rifle used in the Dec. 14, 2012, massacre in Newtown, Conn. Twenty first graders and six educators died.
The lawsuit challenges a 2005 law protecting gun makers from legal liability when their weapons are used in crimes. The families argue that Remington violated Connecticut’s Unfair Trade Practices Act by recklessly marketing the rifle to disturbed young men like the Sandy Hook gunman through product placement in violent video games and advertising pitches like “consider your man card reissued.”
Most attention in the current Supreme Court term has been on whether the justices will expand Second Amendment rights. But should they allow the case to move forward to trial, either by refusing to hear Remington’s appeal or by hearing the case and ruling in the families’ favor, the lawsuit could provide a legal road map for victims and survivors seeking to hold gun makers accountable for gun violence.
Among the many issues with this lawsuit is that Remington didn’t sell the gun to the Sandy Hook killer. No one did. He murdered his own mother who had lawfully purchased the rifle. How can you blame a company for its marketing when a sale wasn’t made?
Further, there’s the fact that Remington is not now nor has it ever been responsible for what a third party does with the firearms they build. So long as they comply with all relevant laws involving the transfers of firearms, it’s ridiculous to hold them responsible for the misuse of those firearms. It’s like suing Bic because of the acts of an arsonist.
Frankly, it’s only the firearm industry that faces this kind of judicial assault.
Beyond that, however, Remington is being attacked on First Amendment grounds as well. Marketing has generally been considered to fall under free speech. While the plaintiffs claim that Remington’s marketing was irresponsible, it’s important to note that they’ve sold millions of firearms and very few of them have ever been misused in such a fashion. Even fewer by those who lawfully purchased those firearms. If the marketing is so irresponsible, why aren’t we seeing more examples of this kind of thing?
The answer, of course, is that Remington did nothing wrong.
Should the Court hear this case–and they seriously need to hear this case–this could land a serious blow to efforts to repeal the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act which forbids this kind of silliness. The justices will meet on Friday to determine if they’ll hear this case or not. My hope is that they will.
Then, we get to find out how the Court views these kinds of things formally.