Firearms expert Richard Barber, whose research played a crucial role in Remington Arms Co.’s recent tentative agreement to fix trigger mechanisms on potentially millions of its rifles, says he’s not backing off on his criticism of the company.
In fact, Barber, whose 9-year-old son was killed in a 2000 hunting accident by a Remington Model 700, says he’s ramping up public allegations that Remington has repeatedly deceived consumers about defects in its rifle trigger mechanisms.
“It’s got to get out there,” he said in an interview this week. “The truth has got to be known. … I’m going to prove it with (Remington’s) own documents.”
Barber, of Manhattan, has said for years that the defects sometimes cause the rifle to fire without the trigger being pulled -- and that’s how his son, Gus, was shot and killed.
Barber was in federal appeals court earlier this week in Seattle, arguing to reinstate his defamation suit against Remington.
A federal judge in Montana dismissed the lawsuit two years ago, saying a release Barber signed in 2002 in a settlement of his wrongful-death lawsuit against Remington prohibits him from suing Remington again over essentially the same incident.
At a hearing before a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Barber’s attorney, Richard Ramler of Belgrade, said the new lawsuit is responding to a new injurious act by Remington – namely, Remington’s attempt to undercut Barber’s reputation and public criticism by lying about the condition of the rifle that killed his son.
Remington made the statements in a lengthy video response to a 2010 CNBC story on the allegations that the Model 700’s trigger mechanism is defective. Barber was featured prominently in the CNBC story.
“The reason Remington made these (false) statements about the Barber rifle in 2010 … was to undercut Mr. Barber’s credibility,” Ramler told the panel. “They attacked Mr. Barber the same way a trial lawyer attacks an expert witness: They attack their credibility, to undercut their message, to undercut the public’s trust in what they’re saying.”
An attorney for Remington, James Vogts, countered that not only did the release Barber signed bar his defamation lawsuit, but also that Remington was simply defending itself against Barber’s criticisms.
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“What Remington said in 2010 was a fair and true report of what they gave as a defense in 2001 (against Barber’s wrongful-death lawsuit),” Vogts said. “It was a true report about the gun and what they discovered about the gun.”
The appeals court took the case under advisement and will rule later.
Barbersays trying to reinstate his defamation lawsuit is part of his effort to prove that Remington lied about not knowing of defects in its rifles.
However, Barber says he isn’t waiting for the court to rule to make his case. He also says he’s learned of three shooting accidents involving children and Remington rifles in recent months, and that if Remington won’t come clean about the rifles, he feels compelled to tell the public about their deadly defects.
“(Remington) is still attempting to conceal that information from the public, and in the interest of public safety, the public needs to see these documents themselves,” he says.
Barber says he plans to publicize and distribute internal Remington documents through social media and other means, to show the company knew its rifles had defects that caused them to fire without the trigger being pulled, but concealed that information.
Remington has steadfastly denied that its trigger mechanisms are defective, but agreed late last year to settle a class-action lawsuit from gun owners, by replacing potentially millions of trigger mechanisms on the Model 700 and other rifles.
As part of the settlement, the company did not admit to any wrongdoing or concede that its products are defective.
Last month, a federal judge in Kansas City, Missouri, preliminarily approved the settlement. However, the settlement won’t be final until after a hearing in December.
Barber hailed the potential settlement as a positive step -- but says it won’t shut him up.
“With (my) knowledge, it’s time to step up and step forward and try to do the right thing for the right reason,” he says.