HELENA – A massive settlement offering to fix the trigger mechanism on millions of Remington Arms Co.’s bolt-action rifles is now in the hands of a federal judge – but he expressed deep skepticism this week about the deal’s effectiveness in protecting rifle owners from accidental discharges.
U.S. District Judge Ortrie Smith of Kansas City said he’ll decide within 30 days whether to accept the settlement affecting 7.5 million Remington rifles.
Under the settlement, the company has offered to replace the trigger mechanism on most of its popular Model 700 rifles – if the owners ask for the retrofit.
But a Montana man who’s been fighting 16 years for a recall of the rifles, saying the trigger mechanism is defective and that Remington knew about it, has urged the judge to reject the settlement – as have attorneys general from nine states and the District of Columbia.
Richard Barber of Willow Creek, whose 9-year-old son, Gus, was killed in 2000 by a Model 700 rifle that fired without the trigger being pulled, during a family hunting trip, has filed objections to the settlement.
Barber says Remington should not be allowed to continue to say nothing is wrong with the rifles – a statement he says discourages gun owners from getting the defective product fixed.
At a hearing earlier this week, Judge Smith also noted that in the two years since the settlement was announced, only 22,000 rifle owners have filed claims – a claims rate of 0.29 percent.
CNBC reported that Smith said he’s concerned about the “exceedingly small” number of claims, because it seems “inconceivable to me that someone would have a firearm that might injure a loved one and not have it fixed.”
Barber also has said Remington should replace the trigger mechanisms on older Model 600 rifles, instead of offering only a $12.50 voucher for Remington products, as part of the settlement.
If Smith rejects the settlement, the case could go to trial.
Remington agreed to the settlement, but has continued to say publicly that nothing is wrong with its popular Model 700 and other 700-series bolt-action rifles. The settlement also covers some Model 600 rifles, the Seven, the Sportsman 78 and XP-100.
Barber has worked in the past with plaintiffs’ lawyers on various lawsuits over accidental firings of Remington rifles that have injured people.
But Barber is now critical of attorneys representing plaintiffs in the current lawsuit, saying they should not be supporting the settlement in its present form.
Barber, who has collected tens of thousands of internal documents from Remington on its knowledge of problems with its trigger mechanism, also told MTN News that he’ll be making those documents available to anyone free of charge.
Another objector to the settlement is Roger Stringer of Mississippi, whose son, Zac, was convicted of manslaughter for shooting his little brother five years ago with a Remington 700 rifle.
Stringer believes his son is innocent and that the rifle fired without a trigger pull.