Mark and Jackie Barden are plaintiffs in the case Soto et. al v. Bushmaster.
Our son, our sweet little Daniel, was just 7 when he was murdered in his first-grade classroom at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012. We are among the 10 families suing the manufacturer, distributor and retail seller of the assault rifle that took 26 lives in less than five minutes on that terrible day.
We write in response to Sen. Bernie Sanders’s comments about our lawsuit at the recent Democratic presidential debate in Michigan. Sanders suggested that the “point” of our case is to hold Remington Arms Co. liable simply because one of its guns was used to commit mass murder. With all due respect, this is simplistic and wrong.
This case is about a particular weapon, Remington’s Bushmaster AR-15, and its sale to a particular market: civilians. It is not about handguns or hunting rifles, and the success of our lawsuit would not mean the end of firearm manufacturing in this country, as Sanders warned. This case is about the AR-15 because the AR-15 is not an ordinary weapon; it was designed and manufactured for the military to increase casualties in combat. The AR-15 is to guns what a tank is to cars: uniquely deadly and suitable for specialized use only.
We have never suggested that Remington should be held liable simply for manufacturing the AR-15. In fact, we believe that Remington and other manufacturers’ production of the AR-15 is essential for our armed forces and law enforcement. But Remington is responsible for its calculated choice to sell that same weapon to the public, and for emphasizing the military and assaultive capacities of the weapon in its marketing to civilians.
Indeed, Remington promotes the AR-15’s capacity to inflict mass casualities. It markets its AR-15s with images of soldiers and SWAT teams; it dubs various models the “patrolman” and the “adaptive combat rifle” and declares that they are “as mission-adaptable as you are”; it encourages the notion that the AR-15 is a weapon that bestows power and glory upon those who wield it. Advertising copy for Remington’s AR-15s has included the following: “Consider your man card reissued,” and “Forces of opposition, bow down. You are single-handedly outnumbered.”
Of course, causing forces of opposition to bow down is exactly what the AR-15 was engineered to do — in combat. But history has shown us, time and again, that it is innocent civilians in malls and movie theaters, and children in their classrooms, who have been made to bow down to the singular power of a gunman wielding an AR-15.
This is not a theoretical dispute. The last thing our sweet little Daniel would have seen in his short, beautiful life was the long barrel of a ferocious rifle designed to kill the enemy in war. The last thing Daniel’s tender little body would have felt were bullets expelled from that AR-15 traveling at greater than 3,000 feet per second — a speed designed to pierce body armor in the war zones of Fallujah.
Sanders has spent decades tirelessly advocating for greater corporate responsibility, which is why we cannot fathom his support of companies that recklessly market and profit from the sale of combat weapons to civilians and then shrug their shoulders when the next tragedy occurs, leaving ordinary families and communities to pick up the pieces.
Remington and the other defendants’ choices allowed an elementary school to be transformed into a battlefield. Our case seeks nothing more than fair accountability for those choices.