WASHINGTON — A head-turning connection appeared on social media Friday amid the raucous gun-control debate in Washington, but looks can be deceiving.
Jim Messina, a former chief of staff of a gun-control icon — retired Rep. Carolyn McCarthy of Mineola — and 2012 campaign manager for President Barack Obama was reported to be working with the Remington Company, the nation’s oldest gun manufacturer.
But a closer look shows Messina is engaged in a worthy project and not really in the gun manufacturer’s employ. And he’s not even getting paid for it, according to a source with knowledge of the arrangement.
In short, Messina is trying help reach more owners of potentially defective guns — triggers that shoot without being pulled — with information about how they can get their firearms fixed to avoid inadvertent harm.
In 2013, a class-action lawsuit was filed against Remington charging it had put a defective trigger on some 7.5 million firearms, including the Remington Model 700 and a dozen others and knew about it but didn’t change it.
Other lawsuits have also raised similar charges and blamed dozens of deaths and hundreds of serious injuries, according to CNBC, which investigated the issue.
After a preliminary settlement was reached last year, U.S. District Judge Ortrie D. Smith, who is overseeing the case, approved a notice provider and a plan to disseminate a remedy.
Remington, which denied wrongdoing, set up a website so that owners of those rifles and other firearms could register to get the trigger replaced, a voucher to pay for replacement or reimbursement for those who paid to fix the trigger.
But in early December of last year, Smith pointed out that only 2,327 claims forms had been filed and ordered all parties involved to come up with a plan to reach more gun owners, court documents show.
Richard Arsenault, a well-known class-action lawyer in the case, said in a telephone interview that he reached out to Messina.
“We really wanted to be stronger in social media,” he said. According to an aide to Messina, plaintiff attorneys approached him for advice.
Arsenault said Messina is actually working for the court, and that it was the plaintiffs who recommended him and Remington did not object.
The project is being run by a firm named Signal Interactive Media, which founded by Messina and Matt Garretson, a lawyer who specializes in administered large class action settlements.
On June 10, the parties proposed in a court filing a campaign in July that would include Facebook ads and 60-second spots on Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity talk radio shows to reach millions of people, including many who might own the affected firearms.
CNBC, which aired an investigative story about Remington in 2010, was first to report Messina’s hiring.