The Navajo Nation could buy the gun maker that became the target of litigation by Newtown parents after the 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Remington Arms is exploring filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection from creditors in the coming days, according to the a Journal report. As it does, the Navajo Nation reportedly is considered purchasing the company as part of a 2018 bankruptcy restructuring by Remington that transferred ownership of the manufacturer to the parent company of Franklin Templeton Investments and JPMorgan Chase.

The Wall Street Journal reported that a buyer would be able to purchase Remington free from legal liabilities, citing multiple unnamed sources. It is not clear how a sale would impact the ongoing Newtown litigation.

The federal government recognizes the Navajo Nation as the second largest Native American tribe in the United States, with the Navajo operating the largest reservation bordering Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

The New York Times reported in 2018 that the Navajo Nation offered as much as $525 million to purchase Remington during the company’s initial bankruptcy, at the time planning to end the sale of military-style models and focus on hunting weapons as well as emerging “smart guns” that rely on finger- or hand-print scanning technology to ensure only registered owners can trigger them.

Remington is based in in Madison, N.C. and makes guns today in Ilion, N.Y. and Hunstville, Ala., with the company once a major Bridgeport manufacturer.

The company was the nation’s third largest gun maker in 2017, producing more than 800,000 weapons to trail only Fairfield-based Sturm Ruger, which makes guns in Arizona and New Hampshire; and Springfield, Mass.-based Smith & Wesson, which has an injection molding facility in Deep River making plastic gun components.

U.S. background checks and gun sales shot up with the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Ruger CEO Chris Killoy during an early May conference call.

“Anecdotal evidence suggests that this increased demand ... may likely be related to COVID-19, the impact of state-level restrictions and heightened concern for personal protection,” Killoy said in May. “We’ve got a very active hiring process in place.”

Includes prior reporting by Rob Ryser.

Alex.Soule@scni.com; 203-842-2545; @casoulman