Over the course of the last few years we have been watching as a lawsuit against Remington Arms Company (and its corporate overlords Freedom Group) has slowly worked its way through the court system. The main allegation is that the trigger design in the Remington 700 model rifle can cause the gun to fire unintentionally, even when the safety mechanism is engaged. New documents uncovered by CNBC seem to indicate that not only did Remington know about these issues (and even duplicated them in their own testing) since at least 1989, but that Big Green has made a conscious choice not to change the mechanism due to concerns that the change would be an admission of guilt . . .
So on a chilly March day at Remington’s main plant in Ilion, New York, the engineers met with the lawyers. Topping the agenda, according to notes by engineer James Hutton: coming up with a new firing mechanism that would allow the company to continue defending the old one. It would need new safety features, the notes say, including a design that keeps debris from getting inside, and a way to keep customers from making dangerous, do-it-yourself adjustments.
The meeting took place in 1989. It would be another 17 years, thousands more complaints and about 100 more lawsuits before Remington would finally put a new fire control for the Model 700 on the market. Many of those lawsuits blamed Remington for serious injuries, as well as multiple deaths.
Secret documents from inside the nation’s oldest gun manufacturer show corporate attorneys heavily involved in multiple attempts by Remington engineers to develop a safer rifle. The apparent fear: changing the design would be seen as an admission of guilt.
The documents, obtained exclusively by CNBC, come to light as the company and plaintiffs’ attorneys seek final court approval of a landmark class-action settlement in which Remington has agreed to replace the triggers in as many as 7.5 million guns. A hearing had been scheduled for Monday, but within hours after this report was first published, the judge postponed it indefinitely.
The root cause of the majority of the claims against Remington’s trigger have come as a result of end users tinkering with the factory-supplied products. Trigger groups that have been modified to be dangerously light or even have certain functions disabled are usually the reason for concern. But there have also been a couple claims about factory-fresh Remington guns showing the same worrying symptoms. If the report is correct, it sounds like Remington wanted to change the trigger design to keep people from messing with their product, but the lawyers and public relations people overruled the engineers on this matter of safety.
It’s more than a little concerning that Remington would choose not to make a design change that would increase the safety of their firearms purely because of PR reasons.