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Richard Barber

Richard Barber, who spent 14 years investigating a Remington Arms Co. rifle’s trigger mechanism that he says was defective and caused the death of his son, talks Friday about the settlement of a class-action lawsuit that will lead to the recall of perhaps millions of rifles, and replacement of the trigger mechanisms.

The Remington Arms Co., seeking to settle claims that its iconic Model 700 bolt-action rifle and other rifles have defective trigger mechanisms that led to injuries and deaths, agreed Friday to replace the trigger mechanism in millions of weapons.

The massive recall, proposed in a settlement filed late Friday in federal court in Kansas City, Missouri, also culminates a 14-year crusade by Montana resident Richard Barber, whose son, Gus, died after being shot when a Model 700 fired accidentally in 2000.

Barber, of Manhattan, said Friday he hopes the recall will end up saving many Remington rifle owners from harm or death – and that was his goal all along.

“I did this to serve and protect others,” he said in an interview in Bozeman. “I made a promise to Gus, three days after he died, that I would never be bought off and that I would never quit, until I effected change. ...

“When I was doing this, I heard it a thousand times that one person can’t make a difference, so why even try? I never believed it.”

Barber spent years researching the trigger mechanism in the Model 700 and pushing for a recall, saying a defect in the mechanism caused rifles sometimes to fire without the trigger being pulled.

The proposed settlement still must be approved by U.S. District Judge Ortrie Smith of Kansas City, after which the recall process would occur.

Court documents filed Friday said the models affected by the settlement include 7.85 million rifles sold in the United States – but not all of those can or need to be retrofitted with new trigger mechanisms.

Remington, while admitting no wrongdoing, agreed to an extensive recall and retrofit of its rifles or, in some cases, a small payment for older rifles that can’t be retrofitted.

The proposed settlement includes:

• For Models 700, Seven, Sportsman 78 and 673 rifles, the company will remove the original Walker trigger mechanism and replace it with a new X-Mark Pro mechanism.

• For Models 710, 715 and 770, the company will remove the original trigger mechanism and replace it with a Model 770 connector-less mechanism.

• For Models 600, 660, XP-100, 721, 722 and 725, the company will provide vouchers of $12.50 or $10, depending on the model, redeemable for Remington products. These rifles are between 32 and 62 years old, and cannot be retrofitted with a connector-less trigger mechanism.

• Models 700 and Seven rifles made between May 2006 and April 9, 2014, with an X-Mark Pro trigger mechanism, will be retrofitted with a new assembly. Earlier this year, Remington had recalled these weapons, after discovering a flaw in the new trigger mechanism.

Remington said it will pay the costs of the repairs and the shipping of any weapon that’s repaired. The company also said once the settlement is approved, it will advertise via news release, direct notices, a website and social media how rifle-owners can file claim forms to get their weapons repaired.

The company also agreed to pay the eight named plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuit $2,500 each for their “time and effort” associated with the case – and $12.5 million to the plaintiffs’ attorneys, subject to approval by the court.

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Barber, who settled his own lawsuit against Remington years ago, said his lengthy crusade almost bankrupted his family, and that he’s been doing most of his work on the case without pay.

He also complimented Remington Arms officials for agreeing to the recall and working toward a settlement that would protect rifle owners.

“I’m sympathetic to the company that now owns Remington,” he said. “They’re doing what needs to be done for all of us to move forward with our lives. ... I’m really humbled.”

Barber’s crusade began in October 2000, after his 9-year-old son was fatally shot on a family hunting trip.

A Model 700 rifle fired when Barber’s wife, Barbara, released the safety as she prepared to unload the gun, the family says. The bullet went through a horse trailer and hit Gus, who, unbeknownst to her, had run behind the trailer.

When Gus’ death was reported in newspapers, Barber began hearing from people who’d experienced similar incidents of unintentional firing by the Remington 700.

An expert shooter and small-arms instructor, Barber started looking into the incidents, and discovered what he believed to be a defective trigger mechanism introduced by the company in the 1940s and installed in millions of rifles.

During his quest, Barber retrieved thousands of documents, met with attorneys representing victims of shooting accidents, and met with top Remington executives about possible fixes to the rifle’s trigger mechanism.

The company designed a new fire-control mechanism – the X-Mark Pro – and began installing it in new models in 2006. But he says it reneged on what he thought was a deal to halt production of the old, defective mechanism.

Barber continued to speak out publicly about his concerns and, as recently as last year, called for the company to be prosecuted for fraud, saying it had deceived courts and the public about what it knew were defects in the rifle’s trigger mechanism.

But in the fall of 2013, Remington and lawyers for gun owners who said their rifles had accidentally fired began mediating the case and came to an agreement in September to settle, including the recall.

Barber said Friday he hopes now to “disappear” and get on with his life – but that the years of effort were worth it.

“When Gus was killed, nobody knew anything about (the defective trigger mechanism),” he said. “It was all concealed in our courtrooms. I sought to put an end to that. ... My message is that secrecy kills.”

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