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Federal judge finally approves settlement offering fix on millions of Remington rifles

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HELENA -

A federal judge Tuesday approved a landmark settlement offering to fix the trigger mechanism on millions of Remington Arms Co.’s bolt-action rifles, ending years of litigation on a weapon that critics say has caused injuries and deaths by firing without the trigger being pulled.

U.S. District Judge Ortrie Smith of Kansas City said he’s disappointed so few rifle-owners have asked for the retrofit so far – just 22,000 – but that he couldn’t deny the potential benefits of fixing a rifle that some say is defective.

“A firearm retrofitted with a new trigger – a trigger that plaintiffs agree is far superior and not defective – is a benefit that cannot be quantified,” he wrote in the 42-page opinion. “By replacing the triggers on the firearms that can be retrofitted, lives will be saved, injuries will be prevented and property damage will be avoided.”

Owners of Remington’s popular Model 700 bolt-action rifle now have 18 months to request retrofit of the trigger mechanism, at no cost, from an authorized firearm dealer or Remington.

It’s estimated that as many as 7.5 million of the rifles are in circulation.

Smith approved the settlement despite objections from nine state attorneys general and several key players related to the legal action, including Richard Barber, a Montana man who’s been fighting more than 16 years for a recall of the rifles.

Barber’s son, Gus, died after being shot in 2000 by a Model 700 that fired without the trigger being pulled, while Barber’s wife was attempting to unload it, he says.

Barber has said the settlement should also have offered to fix several hundred thousand Model 600 Remington rifles and that Remington should not be allowed to keep saying publicly that nothing is wrong with the rifles. He argued that Remington’s stance actively discouraged people from sending in rifles to fix the trigger mechanism.

Smith denied the settlement in 2015, saying notice of the retrofit offer was inadequate, and ordered the parties to submit a new plan – which they did last year.

The new plan used social media, radio advertising, posters at gun merchants’ stores and other methods targeted at rifle-owners. Remington also emailed gun owners and sent notices by mail, and advertisements appeared in millions of magazines.

“To the extent that (rifle owners) do not want to participate, the court cannot force them to do so,” Smith wrote in his order Tuesday. “Because the notice was the best practicable notice in these circumstances, the court must presume (rifle-owners) have chosen not to participate for reasons only they may understand.”

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, who has collected tens of thousands of internal documents from Remington on its knowledge of problems with its trigger mechanism, is now making those documents available to anyone free of charge.

About Mike Dennison

MTN Chief Political Reporter Mike Dennison joined MTN News in August 2015 after a 23-year career as a newspaper reporter covering Montana politics and state government. While some may believe that politics are boring, Mike firmly believes that's not the case if you tell the story with pizzazz and let people know why the story is important.
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