Today marks the third anniversary of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT, where 20 school children and 6 staff were killed. Reflecting on the past three years, there has been heated debate about gun control but actual U.S. policy has changed very little. “My sense is that as this phenomenon continues on, Sandy Hook will stand out as a particularly ugly incident,” Professor Timothy Lytton said in an article, “Three Years after Sandy Hook, Congress Stalls on Guns but States offer Hope,” in The Guardian.”I don’t think Sandy Hook marks any kind of radical departure from the previous 25 years of mass shootings,” he continued in an article for the Hartford Courant, “Sandy Hook’s Uncertain Legacy.” With both sides deeply entrenched, Congress has not enacted any new federal laws.
Some states and localities, including CT, however, have enacted tougher restrictions on gun sales and expanded background checks. In a defeat for the gun industry, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a case challenging a Chicago suburb’s ban on semi-automatic assault rifles. Victims and families are also turning again to the courts — the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act essentially resulted in a ten year hiatus of cases attempting to hold the gun industry responsible, despite the law’s enumerated exceptions — resulting in a recent victory against gun sellers in the Badger Guns case of a fraudulent straw-man purchase.
Family members of the victims of the Sandy Hook shooting filed suit last year against Remington, the manufacturer of the Bushmaster AR-15 Adam Lanza used in the shooting, arguing that it is a weapon designed for war that should not be sold to the general public. Lytton states that despite the recent small, but important, victory returning the case to state court in CT, the family members still face a difficult legal battle.
Timothy D. Lytton is a Distinguished University Professor and Professor of Law at Georgia State University College of Law and a member of the Center for Law, Health & Society. His expertise is in the public policy implications of tort litigation. Lytton is the editor of Suing the Gun Industry: A Battle at the Crossroads of Gun Control and Mass Torts (2005).