On Feb. 19, 2017, 60 Minutes broadcast a segment about Remington Arms Company, LLC and two tragic incidents that occurred in 2011. Unfortunately, 60 Minutes omitted and misrepresented key facts about each incident that would have allowed viewers to have an accurate and complete understanding of what happened.
Remington provided the following response to offer a more complete record of the relevant facts and a comprehensive overview of the incidents described in the story:
The 60 Minutes segment showcased two separate incidents which it alleged stemmed from issues related to the rifles’ trigger mechanisms. Although Remington shared voluminous information and spent hours providing background information to 60 Minutes related to the recall and the two incidents, 60 Minutes failed to offer its viewers critical facts and content core to each incident. It is imperative that 60 Minutes viewers, our customers and the public, have accurate and complete information related to these two incidents as well as to the recall of Model 700 rifles with X-Mark Pro (“XMP”) triggers and the settlement of the Pollard v. Remington class action lawsuit.
Remington stands behind the safety and reliability of its products and vehemently denies allegations by 60 Minutes and others that there is any design defect in another trigger mechanism, the Walker trigger mechanism. Remington made a commercial decision to put an end to the expense and uncertainty of protracted litigation, and agreed to settle the Pollard class action on terms which are in the best interests of Remington and its valued customers.
Separately, after Remington’s own investigation determined that there was a possible assembly error affecting some XMP triggers, in April 2014 the company immediately and voluntarily issued an international recall on all Remington products with XMP trigger mechanisms manufactured from May 1, 2006 to April 9, 2014 and broadly promoted and advertised the recall. Under the recall program, over 350,000 XMP trigger mechanisms have been replaced. Firearm safety remains our number one priority.
Remington was first contacted by a 60 Minutes producer in October 2016 advising that CBS was “working on a [60 Minutes segment] in regards to the XMP recall and the pending Pollard Class Action Settlement.” The 60 Minutes producers, representing that CBS was interested in airing “a complete, well-rounded, and accurate report,” asked Remington to provide background information about Model 700 rifles and about two independent incidents involving Model 700 rifles. Given this representation and with the hope that 60 Minutes was truly interested in producing a balanced and accurate report, Remington sent 60 Minutes numerous records and information on those topics, and it also directed CBS to specific, readily available public records related to the topics chosen as the focus by 60 Minutes.
It is distressing that most of the information Remington provided to 60 Minutes was not included or ever referenced in its February 19, 2017 Remington segment. To set the record straight and to provide Remington’s valued customers and viewers of the 60 Minutes segment with a complete and accurate understanding of several of the matters presented in the segment, Remington provides below a listing of information either in 60 Minutes’ possession or readily available to it in public records before it aired its segment. This material puts the 60 Minutes’ segment in context and exposes 60 Minutes’ pre-determined viewpoint and intentional omission of key facts that would have reflected balanced reporting of the circumstances of those tragic incidents.
Topic 1: The Stringer Incident
60 Minutes presented the tragic story from Mississippi of then 15-year-old Zachary Stringer shooting and killing his 11-year-old brother with a Model 700 rifle in June of 2011. 60 Minutes represented that Zachary was convicted in the shooting death of his brother with a Remington rifle even though Zachary “insisted it went off by itself.” Leslie Stahl then suggested that the rifle fired because of a potential manufacturing defect (excess bonding agent) which prompted Remington in April of 2014 to voluntarily recall all Model 700 rifles with XMP trigger mechanisms. Remington had previously explained to the 60 Minutes producers that to be subject to the recall condition of a potential unintentional discharge caused by excess bonding agent on the blocker screw, the excess bonding agent had to be of a certain consistency and the rifle had to be being used in certain cold weather conditions. The rifle was indisputably not being used in cold weather conditions when it was being handled by Zachary Stringer inside his home in Mississippi in June of 2011.
When 60 Minutes told Remington before the segment aired that it intended to address the Stringer tragedy, Remington sent 60 Minutes the following materials: (1) the Mississippi Supreme Court decision affirming the manslaughter conviction of Zachary Stringer; and (2) the transcript of the trial testimony of the forensic scientist from the Mississippi Crime Lab who had examined and tested the rifle. The Supreme Court decision set out in great detail the facts of the incident and the trial transcript of the forensic scientist’s testimony detailed her examination and testing of the rifle conducted after the shooting. CBS withheld the following facts from these materials in its possession:
- According to the Supreme Court decision, Zachary gave law enforcement officers three conflicting and inconsistent accounts of how the shooting occurred. In his initial handwritten statement given to officers in the presence of his parents two days after the shooting, Zachary claimed his brother had shot himself while the two of them were home alone. Zachary later admitted that immediately after he shot his brother, he put his Remington rifle back in his closet. He then retrieved his brother’s shotgun, “fired a round into the woods, and placed the shotgun between [his brother’s] legs” in an effort “to make it look like an accident.”
- In Zachary’s second statement, given almost two months after the first statement and in the presence of his attorney, he claimed that after his brother shot the family dog with a dart gun, Zachary retrieved his Remington rifle from his bedroom. Without checking the rifle’s action, Zachary claimed the rifle fired as he got up from the couch in the living room.
- In Zachary’s third statement (given a week after his second statement), he claimed his brother was pestering him and pretending to shoot him with the dart gun. At that point, Zachary said he threatened to shoot his brother if he continued to pester him, and he loaded a round in the chamber of his Remington rifle. Zachary claimed the shooting that followed was accidental.
- As shown by Mississippi Supreme Court decision and the trial transcript provided to 60 Minutes, the rifle was examined and tested after the incident by a forensic scientist from the Mississippi Crime Laboratory. As the transcript of testimony from the trial shows, the forensic scientist performed functional-reliability tests on the rifle, including drop and impact tests, and the rifle did not accidentally discharge and was determined to be “in good working order.”
In sum, the following materials were not referenced or acknowledged by 60 Minutes although they were provided to 60 Minutes and are linked herein: (1) the opinion by the Mississippi Supreme Court; and (2) the transcript of trial testimony of firearms examiner for the Mississippi Crime Lab.
Topic 2: The North Carolina Incident
60 Minutes also reported on a shooting incident occurring on December 23, 2011, in Columbus County, North Carolina. One woman was killed and two others injured by a single bullet discharged from the bedroom inside a neighbor’s house across the street. The 23-year-old neighbor and owner of the Remington rifle claimed he was retrieving the rifle (which was in a gun case) from his bedroom closet. Thinking the rifle was unloaded, the neighbor pulled the rifle from the case with his right hand while holding a cell phone in his left hand. As he pulled the rifle out of the case, it discharged. The bullet traveled through his bedroom window and across the street where it struck the three women as they were walking to their car.
60 Minutes suggested that the rifle fired without the trigger being pulled because of the potential manufacturing defect which prompted the April 2014 XMP trigger recall. When 60 Minutes told Remington that the segment might include the North Carolina incident, Remington sent the 60 Minutes producers the following materials (none of which were referenced or acknowledged by 60 Minutes in the segment): (1) the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation’s report on its examination and testing of the rifle in question; (2) the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s report on its separate examination of the rifle; (3) the initial report and the subsequent deposition transcript of the firearms expert hired by the attorneys for the women’s families in their subsequent lawsuit against Remington; (4) the transcript of the recorded statement given to local law enforcement on the day of the incident by the neighbor who was handling the rifle; and (5) an e-mail string between the attorneys representing the families of the women regarding their expert’s findings on examining the rifle. In addition, 60 Minutes had knowledge of, and access to, the Mecklenburg County court file which included the complete transcript of the deposition of the neighbor. In airing the portion of its segment concerning the North Carolina incident, 60 Minutes withheld and omitted the following facts:
- On the day of the incident, the neighbor told law enforcement that the rifle fired because “I must have bumped the trigger.”
- The neighbor testified at his deposition that he thought the rifle was unloaded at the time of the incident.
- The NCSBI examined the rifle and found it to be functioning properly.
- The FBI examined the rifle at its Quantico, VA laboratory and found it to be functioning normally.
- In his initial report of March 31, 2014, the firearms expert hired by the family’s attorneys stated that, based on his examination and testing of the rifle, it “displayed no conditional nor configurational defects that would cause it to fire in the absence of a depressed trigger.”
- In an e-mail string between the family’s attorneys, they reported that their firearms expert found the rifle to be “within factory specs with no visible defects.”
- In his deposition of May 14, 2015, the expert hired by the family’s attorneys testified to the following: (A) his opinion that at the time of the shooting the man handling the rifle did not know it was loaded; (B) the rifle’s safety was in the “OFF” or “FIRE” position at the time of the incident; (C) if the safety had been engaged in the “ON” or “SAFE” position, the rifle would not have fired under any circumstances; (D) during his inspection of the rifle, he never found any excess bonding agent (Loctite) to be in any way interfering with the safe operation of the rifle; and (E) that in the usage of the rifle before the incident and in the multitude of tests performed on the rifle after the incident, the only way the rifle could be made to discharge was by pulling the trigger.
The materials provided to 60 Minutes by Remington and linked herein included the following: (1) the NCSBI report; (2) the FBI report; (3) the statement of the gunhandler given to law enforcement on the day of the shooting; (4) the transcript of deposition of the expert witness hired by the plaintiffs’ attorneys; (5) the initial March 31, 2014 report of the plaintiffs’ expert; and (6) an e-mail string between plaintiffs’ attorneys.
Topic 3: Verdicts in 2008 and 2011
60 Minutes also made reference to a 1994 verdict against Remington in a case involving a Model 700 rifle with a Walker trigger mechanism (the Collins case). 60 Minutes did not disclose that in the only two injury cases tried to verdict since the Collins case involving Remington trigger mechanisms containing the connector component, both juries returned verdicts in Remington’s favor finding that the Remington trigger mechanisms were not defective. Both of these verdicts were provided to 60 Minutes before the segment aired, and 60 Minutes intentionally failed to disclose these verdicts to its viewers. The verdicts provided to 60 Minutes are linked herein: (1) the 2008 jury verdict in Williams v. Remington; and (2) the 2011 jury verdict in Hull v. Remington.
For decades, Remington bolt-action rifles have been a favorite of millions of American hunters, target shooters, law enforcement and military personnel. Remington continues to stand behind the safety and reliability of its firearms. That is certainly true for its bolt-action centerfire rifles, including the Model 700, which has earned its reputation among millions of satisfied users as America’s most popular, reliable and trusted bolt-action rifle.
Tuesday, February 21, 2017