In an interview with CBS News Correspondent Jim Stewart, Missouri attorney Rich Miller talks about the Model 700 and the lawsuits he has handled. The following is a full transcript of the interview.
Rich Miller: " At last count we had over 1,500 customer complaints of similar malfunctions from across the country. At one time, and maybe still today, the Remington 700 was the world's best selling bolt action rifle. They knew from day one they had a fatal flaw."
Miller: "The downside is that the same mechanism can fail and that was recognized on the face of Walker's patent in 1950 that if you dont do this right the gun might fire on safety release.
Miller: "Everyone they've made since 1950, '52, '62 when they started calling it the 700, contains that Walker Fire Control System with that one piece called the trigger connector that can fail unbeknownst to the user. Every single one, including the one they're making today."
Jim Stewart: "How long was it before the company, after they began manufacturing it, realized, 'we got a problem'?"
Miller: "I can only speak to what I've seen in documents and when you go past the patent in '50 which mentions the possibility, the next area that I know they realized they had a problem was in the early 70s. And that's what they pointed out in these early gun examination reports in the 70s, they would attribute it to such things as congealed lubricant, dirt or debris in the mechanism, burrs from the manufacturing process that hadnt cleared out."
Miller: (In later responses to customers) "The response was they first looked for some sort of post-manufacturing modification. If somebody screwed with the gun and that can be causative. If they didnt find that, every single one says, 'cannot duplicate customers complaint' and the letter back to the customers all of them say 'you must have inadvertently have pulled the trigger'
Stewart: "Your fault?"
Miller: "Your fault and it got so bad we started calling them form letters."
Miller: "They started analyzing the problem in '75 because they were getting some additional returns from the field. They realized the Walker fire control system with this trigger connector and on January 2nd, 1979, there was a meeting with the product safety subcommittee and a decision was made. The 700 at that time was the world's best selling bolt action rifle, may still be today. They knew they'd made 2 million of them at that time they were doing about 100,000 a year and they had studied that gun over the last 3 or 4 years and deciding what to do. And their estimates of the 700 problem was only 1% can go off.
Miller: "And so they decided on the 700, 'we're not going to recall'. 2 million guns is too many guns if you have only 2,000 bad ones. And that was the decision it was an economic decision."
Miller: "Now the key thing to understand here is this: every single 700 has the Walker fire control system with a trigger connector in it. If you own a 700, you've got it. And that is the problem all of these guns have this design defect in it."
Miller: "And such things as age, wear, contaminates lubricant, things like that will enhance over time, so that the older guns will tend to have more problems than the newer ones."
Miller: "Three defenses, in order: number one: they first look for post-manufacturing modification, simple words: somebody screwed with it after it was made that was causative. Second: that the customer inadvertently pulled the trigger a nicer way of saying you're wrong and perhaps you're lying. That's always the second line of defense. What belies that is there's 1,500 customer complaints that we've collected, their documents admitting the problem. They have a hard time making that defense when they'd essentially admitted the problem in documents though not in the same words. Third defense is, unsafe gun handling practices."
Stewart:: "If Remington were to recall all these guns, that conceivably could put them out of business?"
Miller: "Remington's net worth is not enough to pay for the recall."
Stewart: "They've got no choice?"
Miller: "They don't have a choice, no."
Miller: "Dirt, debris, dried lubricant, moisture particularly under cold weather conditions can all affect the fire control mechanism."
Stewart: "You don't go hunting in a sterile environment, you don't go looking for a deer in an operating room, you go out in the woods and it's dirty."
Miller: "And Remington knows that, as do hunters. The problem with, if you look at the owner's manuals, they don't tell you to open this up and clean it. In fact, if you did that and an accident happened, they'd say you caused it. That's tampering with the weapon."
Miller: "Guns don't fire unless you pull the trigger is the assumption everyone begins with. This gun kills people."
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