A class action settlement that has drawn concerns over gun safety has now become a fight over gun rights.
This week, a group of attorneys general from 11 states fired back at a competing coalition that claims the settlement with Remington Arms Co. threatens public safety. Under the deal, owners of 7.5 million model 700 series rifles would get retrofits or refunds to fix an alleged defect that causes the rifle to unintentionally fire. But only 0.29 percent of class members have submitted claims, a claims rate that’s become the target of class notice critics. That means that most of the gun owners aren’t even aware their rifles could cause deaths and injuries, according to an amicus brief filed last month by 10 states, including Massachusetts, California, New York, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia.
On Tuesday, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall blasted the group of “liberal AGs” for trying to “inject firearms regulation” into the settlement, which resolves class actions brought over economic damages, not injuries or deaths.
“The criticisms Massachusetts and its companion states have lodged are not grounded in any concern about boosting the plaintiffs’ economic recovery, but are instead an unwarranted effort to use this litigation to achieve other policy goals about firearms regulation in general,” Marshall wrote in an amicus brief unsealed Wednesday.
“This lawsuit is a dispute between private parties about economic losses that the plaintiffs allegedly incurred when they bought an allegedly defective product from the defendant. The mere fact that the product at issue is a gun does not transform this case into a lawsuit about firearm safety.”
Alabama was joined in the brief by attorneys general from Arkansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
The unintentional firing of the Remington rifles were the subject of a CNBC report called “Remington Under Fire,” but Remington has denied the existence of such a defect. In 2015, U.S. District Judge Ortrie Smith of the Western District of Missouri refused to approve the settlement after the notice plan attracted only 2,327 claims. Lawyers in the case conducted a new notice plan, upping the number of claimants to 22,000, and Smith approved the deal on March 24. Two objectors appealed, focusing largely on the notice plan’s failures.