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Remington 700 Rifles the Focus of 60 Minutes Investigative Report on Faulty Trigger Mechanisms and Spontaneous Firing

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In a feature that aired on CBS’ 60 Minutes on February 19, correspondent Lesley Stahl has brought to light that thousands of gun owners claim that their bolt-action Remington 700 rifles have been firing without the trigger being pulled. There is also a class-action lawsuit and recall for these rifles, which have a controversial trigger. This past week, a federal judge in Missouri has heard testimony from owners of the popular rifle, identifying that in thousands of cases, these rifles have fired without anyone squeezing the trigger. Remington, makers of the firearm, has for decades been deemphasizing the danger, stating that the complaints represent only a fraction of the rifles in existence. However, 10 attorneys general wrote the court identifying, “There are potentially as many as 7.5 million defective rifles at issue,” and that, “Remington knows or should know…they are unreasonably dangerous.”

Remington 700 Rifles the Focus of 60 Minutes Investigative Report on Faulty Trigger Mechanisms and Spontaneous Firing

Photo: Facebook/Chris Cyr

And avid hunters and gun lovers are trying to raise awareness about the rifle’s defect. In one instance, in particular, a young boy the age of 12 (at the time) was convicted and sent to prison for 10 years for the murder of his younger brother, resulting from what his father now believes was the faulty trigger. Gun safety in their home was considered paramount, and at the time, the father was unaware of the estimated 200 owner complaints to Remington regarding this flaw, including three police departments and video footage from rifle owners capturing the gun firing on its own after the safety was released. So unaware was he, that although his son explained what happened, he, in fact, testified against him in the trial, not believing that the gun fired on its own. In the 60 Minutes interview, he explained, “I did. I did. Because I’d never heard of a gun going off without a trigger being pulled. It made no sense.” Years later, through his own research, he has since come across the mountainous number of complaints and issues regarding the faulty trigger mechanism and the rifle spontaneously firing.

Remington 700 Rifles the Focus of 60 Minutes Investigative Report on Faulty Trigger Mechanisms and Spontaneous Firing

Photo: Facebook/The Montana Outdoor Radio Show

A trigger mechanism called the X-Mark Pro was installed on the Remington 700 rifle in this case, and six months afterward, a similar tragedy happened with that same trigger, when a young girl was accidentally killed by a stray bullet from a loaded rifle fired independently across the street from her home. The bullet traveled through a closed window, across the street, and hit the girl’s cousin, going through-and-through, and killing the girl who was standing in the front yard with her. Following the incident, in a deposition given under oath by the former marine and experienced hunter, James Anthony Blackwell, who’s rifle was responsible for the death, there was no explanation for how his rifle fired by itself. Blackwell’s lawyer, Robert Chaffin, appeared on 60 Minutes and noted that a previous settlement with Remington had been won in the amount of $17 million in 1994 by a client who shot himself in the foot when he stated that his Remington 700 fired by itself. At the time, the rifles were made with what was called the Walker trigger, and although Remington has faced at least 150 lawsuits alleging death or injury related to the faulty trigger, they argued it was always a result of human error. To this day, Remington has never admitted any wrongdoing. And with an estimated seven million of these rifles in the marketplace, to them that makes good business sense.

Remington 700 Rifles the Focus of 60 Minutes Investigative Report on Faulty Trigger Mechanisms and Spontaneous Firing

Photo: Facebook/Robin Woolhiser to Oregon Antelope – Pronhorn Hunters

However, as early as 1975, a Remington internal document identified that there was a problem with the trigger for the rifle when their own tests showed some of the 700’s firing without someone pulling the trigger. And in 1979, the company considered a recall, but that never happened, and instead, the company switched from the Walker trigger to the X-Mark Pro in 2006. In the 60 Minutes interview, Chaffin identified, “They admit under oath in recent testimony that the new model was brought about to the market because they had so many complaints with the older model, not that there was anything wrong with it. And it turns out the new model was actually worse than the old model for the first eight years they manufactured it.” Typically, and even over the years of many complaints and video evidence from owners, Remington has marked complaints “could not duplicate” and they were simply filed. And as a result of the Second Amendment, regulators couldn’t do anything about the issue. The government is not allowed to recall real guns (only toys), and there is no consumer product agency to enforce makers of firearms into such a process. Any recall of a firearm has to be voluntary by the company.

Remington 700 Rifles the Focus of 60 Minutes Investigative Report on Faulty Trigger Mechanisms and Spontaneous Firing

Photo: Facebook/Remington Arms Company

Then, in February 2014, a Remington 700 rifle owner sent the company his video showing the spontaneous firing of the rifle in his garage in cold weather (as he was wearing his coat at the time). The video had been uploaded to Youtube, and with the addition of that public pressure, Remington completed its own cold weather tests, after which four out of ten rifles fired by themselves. After that, they recalled more than one million rifles but continued to insist that nobody had been harmed by the trigger’s defect, and repeatedly stated that even after settling on the case involving the young girl’s accident death in her yard, still admitting no wrongdoing. Chaffin identified to 60 Minutes that when Remington offered to fix the triggers, they did very little to notify gun owners, to the extent that even today, only one in every four of the rifles has ever been fixed. The company issued a statement to CBS saying that they “broadly promoted and advertised” the recall. Yet close to one million of the firearms with the faulty trigger still remain untouched out there. Not to mention the fact that the Remington 700’s with the original Walker trigger are still in existence, and the company continues to receive complaints (numbering close to 2,000 in the last four years alone.) It too is facing a class-action lawsuit over which owners of the firearms state that Remington knowingly sold them the guns with the defective Walker trigger. A judge has yet to approve the settlement that has been agreed to by Remington, to replace the triggers for free although the company “vehemently denies… there is any design defect in the Walker.”

Remington 700 Rifles the Focus of 60 Minutes Investigative Report on Faulty Trigger Mechanisms and Spontaneous Firing

Photo: Facebook/Monsees & Mayer, P.C.

Shortly after 60 Minutes approached the prison to interview the young man that was charged with the murder of his brother, his dad received word that his son would be released for good behavior after spending five years of his sentence. His dad now believes in his son’s innocence having heavily researched the class action lawsuits and the number of consumer complaints to Remington. He stated, “What I’m pushing for is for nobody else to have to walk in my shoes. I don’t want anybody else to have to see their baby in the shape Justin was in that night.” Remington has issued a formal statement to 60 Minutes stating the following, “Remington stands behind the safety and reliability of its products and vehemently denies allegations that there is any design defect in the Walker trigger mechanism. However, to put an end to the expense and uncertainty of protracted litigation, Remington agreed to settle the 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 another trigger mechanism, the X Mark Pro (“XMP”), it 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. Firearm safety remains our number one priority.”


CBS’ 60 Minutes