Arthur Bryant Rich Barber And the Campaign to Bring Remington to Justice

In October 2000, Rich and Barbara Barber lost their nine year old son to a gun accident.

Arthur Bryant

Arthur Bryant

Barbara went to unload a Remington rifle. Her finger was nowhere near the trigger. And the gun went off. The bullet killed her son.

The Barbers sued and Remington immediately settled the case.

Ever since, Rich Barber has been on a campaign to bring Remington to justice.

Now, in a landmark settlement of a class action lawsuit, hundreds of thousands of documents are going to be made public.

The documents show that Remington knew that the rifle was defective, lied about it and covered up the defect.

Arthur Bryant helped make those documents public.

Bryant is Chairman of Public Justice in Oakland, California.

“Richard Barber lives in Montana,” Bryant told Corporate Crime Reporter in an interview last week. “He’s an expert marksman. An NRA member and certified instructor. An active gun rights advocate.”

“In 2000, he, his wife Barbara, their 13-year-old daughter Chandra, and their nine-year-old son Gus went on a hunting trip one weekend.”

“As a family, they enjoyed going out hunting. They came back from the trip. Barbara went to unload one of their Remington 700 rifles. The design of that rifle required her to release the safety to unload the gun. She released the safety. Her finger was nowhere near the trigger. The gun fired on its own. And it shot and killed their nine-year-old son Gus.”

“Gus had actually run behind a trailer at their house. He was not where he been standing when Barbara started to unload the gun. And the shot went through the trailer and killed Gus.”

“Both Rich and Barbara were absolutely devastated. They were beside themselves. They used guns regularly. They valued their right to do so. But this gun had killed their son.”

“They retained a lawyer — Rich Miller — to represent them in litigation. Rich Miller used to be on the board of directors of Public Justice. He is now deceased. In 2001, they sued Remington over the defect. And it clearly was a defect. No one pulled the trigger and the gun fired.”

“Rich Barber and Rich Miller used the lawsuit as leverage to get Remington to fix the problem. The question was — why did the gun fire when the safety was taken off? They were convinced that there was a defect in the trigger mechanism, specifically the Walker Fire Control. They used the lawsuit to get an agreement to develop a new trigger mechanism and eliminate the need for anyone to release the safety to empty the gun.”

“When Rich Barber reached the agreement to settle his lawsuit, he thought that Remington was going to fix the rifle, eliminate the problem, and make sure that no more people were injured or killed. He agreed to work with Remington on this.”

“In 2005, as part of this process, Rich Barber was invited by the CEO of Remington to go to Elizabeth, Kentucky — where Remington’s research and development facility was — to review potential new fire controls so that they could get the problem solved. He went. He thought it was great. Later that year, prior to production of the new fire control — which was called the X-Mark Pro — they sent him one for testing. He found what he thought were additional deficiencies and they corrected them.”

“During that time period, Rich learned of prior cases in which Remington rifles had fired without a trigger pull. The information in them was sealed. In addition to working to getting these defective guns fixed, he committed himself to limiting court secrecy.”

“As a result of Rich’s work in Montana, the Montana legislature passed the Gus Barber Anti-Secrecy Act. That law prevents the use of secrecy and protective orders to hide hazards to public safety.”

How many guns are involved and how many deaths?

“There are between 7.5 million and 7.8 million Remington rifles out there with these defective triggers. This includes Remington Model 700’s – the most popular rifle in America – and several other models. (The complete list is at”

“As for deaths, we don’t know because of court secrecy — these protective orders. We do know that, as of 2010, there were at least 130 lawsuits alleging that the Remington rifles had fired when no one pulled the trigger. How many of those were death cases — or cases where someone was maimed, but not killed, or where there was property damage — we don’t know.”

“We now know that Remington knew about the defect for over 50 years, did not fix it, and denied its existence. When lawsuit after lawsuit after lawsuit was brought, Remington hid the truth. When a lawsuit uncovered some of the truth, Remington settled the case secretly and swore the plaintiffs to secrecy. Incredibly, Remington is still claiming that these rifles are safe – but its own documents show that’s not true and that Remington knows it.”

“A few months ago, Public Justice and the plaintiffs’ counsel in a national class action, Pollard v. Remington Arms, got Remington to agree to unseal all of the documents in all of the prior product liability and other bolt-action lawsuits against it, as well as the documents and tangible things listed in the plaintiffs’ initial disclosure in Pollard. They are truly ‘smoking gun’ documents. They expose the outrageous conduct Remington’s been involved in for decades.”

Those prior lawsuits were almost all settled with protective orders. How did you gain access to the documents?

The Pollard class action was filed in federal court in Kansas City to force Remington to recall or replace the rifles and/or compensate the rifle owners for providing them with defective guns. No one would buy a rifle knowing that it could fire without someone pulling the trigger. So, if Remington is not going to repair or replace the guns for free, it owes all of the gun owners at least a partial refund. And it needs to make sure the rifles aren’t used.”

“After the proposed settlement was reached in Pollard, Remington and the class counsel went to the judge and filed a stipulated motion for a protective order. The judge denied the motion.”

“The judge said – this case involves a danger to the public, there is a strong public interest in knowing about that danger. If you have specific documents and you can show good cause to make them secret, I want you to prove it. Otherwise, I’m not making anything secret.”

“As part of his effort to hold Remington accountable and make sure these guns were repaired or replaced, Rich Barber had been an expert witness in many of the previous product liability cases. For a while, he was also an expert witness in the Pollard case. He had a wealth of information from bringing his own case and being an expert witness in other cases. As the internet developed, he became known as the expert in this area.”

Those product liability cases settled with protective orders, right?

“Yes. But Rich still had access to the information. According to him, when the lawyers for Pollard and Remington went to the judge for a protective order, he resigned as an expert witness in that case. He didn’t want them to make any documents secret.”

“The judge did exactly the right thing. But the problem was that almost all of those documents were already secret anyway, because they were covered by protective orders in the product liability cases. Rich Barber was desperately afraid that, if the settlement went through, Remington would publically do everything it could to deter gun owners from getting their guns repaired and replaced. It would still say that these guns were safe — even though they were defective. And he was afraid that no one could rebut Remington because almost all of the documents that proved the truth were under seal and secret.”

Rich Barber goes to you at the end of 2015.

“Yes, in regard to the Pollard class action. But before that, in 2011, Rich came to us about a case he had learned about called Aleksich v. Remington. It was in Montana and had been filed and settled five years before his son Gus was killed. There was no public record of it.”

“The court record listed the case as Sealed v. Sealed. The entire case docket was sealed. He came to us and asked if we could help. We represented him and a great Public Justice team — Bill Rossbach and Rich Ramler of Montana and Staff Attorneys Leslie Bailey and Amy Radon — got the entire case file unsealed.”

“When that case file was unsealed, Rich saw that what had happened to his son had happened to someone else five years earlier and been kept secret. He saw more evidence confirming that Remington had known for decades that these guns were defective and were firing when no one pulled the trigger.”

“We worked with Rich on that in 2011 and 2012.”

“Then, in 2015, as the proposed class action settlement in Pollard was going forward, Rich came to me and said — Arthur — I have all of these documents. They are all under seal. I have already informed Remington that, if the class action settlement is approved, I am going to use them to make sure the public knows how dangerous these guns are and they need to be replaced.”

“In response, Remington has told me that, if I do that, it will sue me in court after court for contempt of court because I’m violating the protective orders to keep these documents secret. Can you help me?”

“He said — you know me. I don’t want another child killed the way my son was killed. If I have to violate these protective orders to make sure the public is safe, I will do that. But I am hoping that’s not necessary.”

When he approaches you to do something, what do you do?

“I call up the class counsel in Pollard v. Remington. They know Public Justice has long fought unnecessary secrecy in the courts. I tell them that we think all of these documents need to be open to the public. We view the judge’s order denying the stipulated motion for a protective order as essentially saying — those old protective orders no longer have force. And we want you and Remington to agree to that so we don’t have to go to the judge about it. If we do have to go to the judge, we want you to know that we will be representing the Center for Investigative Reporting to unseal these documents for everyone.”

“The class counsel said he agreed. He went to Remington’s counsel. And, ultimately, Remington agreed to unseal all of the documents in all of the prior cases and Pollard. That was at the end of last year.”

Why did Remington agree?

“I think Remington agreed because it knew it would lose. The judge’s order made it clear that he was going to require Remington to prove there was good cause for keeping these documents secret. There is no good cause for keeping these documents secret.”

How many documents are there?

“Several hundred thousand — possibly a million or more.”

What do you plan to do with the documents?

“We plan to post them on the web and make them accessible to the public.”

CNBC has done some reporting on this already.

“In 2010, CNBC broadcast a one hour special about these defective rifles — Remington Under Fire. In response, Remington did not admit there was a problem. Instead, Remington paid over $2.2 million in legal fees alone — separate from the production costs — to create its own documentary challenging CNBC’s special as inaccurate and false. And it broadcast that rebuttal to CNBC.”

“When we unsealed these documents, among them were documents showing Remington knew that most of the things it was saying in its rebuttal to CNBC weren’t true.For example, Remington claimed that it had never been able to make these guns fire without pulling the trigger and that none of its experts had ever been able to make these guns fire without pulling the trigger. The documents show that isn’t true — and that both Remington and its experts were able to get these guns to fire without a trigger pull.”

“When we got these documents and shared them with CNBC, CNBC first conducted and published a detailed investigative report on the web at Then it created and broadcast an updated version of its five-year-old documentary, which it called Remington Under Fire: The Reckoning.”

“CNBC exposed the truth again and showed that Remington had known for decades that these guns were firing without people pulling the trigger – and that people were dying and being maimed as a result. It showed that Remington denied everything, hid the truth, and settled the cases with secrecy. And it showed that, to this day, Remington is continuing to insist that there is nothing wrong.”

In a nutshell, what do the documents show?

“They show that, since shortly after this gun was marketed in the 1940s, Remington knew it was defectively designed and could fire without anyone pulling the trigger. As time went on, it knew the gun was firing without a trigger pull and killing and injuring people. But Remington denied there was a problem, fought the lawsuits, looked into possible fixes and refused to implement them. It just kept selling the product and hiding the truth.”

In the Ford Pinto case, there was a document that showed executives doing a cost-benefit calculation — if we fix it, it will cost us so much, if we don’t so many lives will be lost. And they decided it was not worth fixing it.”

Is there a chance there is such a document in the trove you will be posting?

“I have no idea whether such a Remington document exists. But Remington acted as if it had made such a calculation and concluded that the best course of action was to continue selling the product without fixing it, to continue letting people be injured and die, and to continue hiding and denying the truth.”

Is there a criminal investigation of Remington in this case?

“I don’t know, but there should be. The documents we have unsealed show that Remington was repeatedly charged with and sanctioned for discovery abuse.”

“It repeatedly represented to courts’ lawyers, and gun owners that Remington and its experts had never been able to make the guns fire without a trigger pull. That was not true. It even had three different acronyms for times when that happened: FSR for fire on safety release, FBO for fire on bolt opening, and FBC for fire on bolt closing.”

“But it didn’t fix the problem and kept selling more guns, knowing the rifles would keep firing and people would be shot.”

There is precedent for criminal reckless homicide. Ford Motor Company was prosecuted for reckless homicide in connection with the deaths of three teenaged girls whose Pinto was rear ended and they burned to death.

“Whether there is sufficient proof to justify such a prosecution, I don’t know. But it is certainly worth a look.”

“The documents prove that Remington lied to judges and lawyers. That is clear. I don’t know the law on criminal obstruction of justice. But it ought to be investigated.”

“Finally, there are gun owners in this country who have been criminally prosecuted because their guns fired when they didn’t pull the trigger and shot somebody. These people have been prosecuted even though they claimed they didn’t pull the trigger.”

“But now that we know the guns could have gone off without them pulling the trigger, we know these people may not be liable. We should look at these cases closely. A few years ago, two lawyers – Bob Hilliard of Texas and Brent Schafer of Minnesota – were finalists for Public Justice’s Trial Lawyer of the Year Award because they proved that a man had been wrongfully convicted of vehicular homicide because his Toyota suddenly accelerated on its own. We need to make sure that no one is wrongfully imprisoned or prosecuted because a Remington rifle fired on its own.”

[For the complete q/a transcript of the Interview with Arthur Bryant, see 30 Corporate Crime Reporter 3(11), January 18, 2016, print edition only.]

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