Gun Manufacturer Faces Wrongful Death Lawsuit over Sandy Hook School Shooting

Several families of young children and teachers massacred at a Sandy Hook elementary school two years ago have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the manufacturers of the AR-15 assault rifle used in the attack. 

A complaint (PDF) was filed in Connecticut Superior Court on December 13, naming Bushmaster Firearms International, LLC, and its parent company, Remington Outdoor, Co. as defendants. The lawsuit also includes claims against Camfour, a distributer of the rifles, and Riverview Gun Sales, a gun store.

According to allegations in the wrongful death lawsuit, all were involved in the selling of a weapon that was designed for military use, knowing it had no legitimate civilian purposes and could only be effectively used by civilians for criminal activity.

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The lawsuit stems from the mass murder of 20 young elementary school children and six teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012. Adam Lanza entered the school armed with a Bushmaster Model XM15-E2S rifle, which he took out of his mother’s unlocked gun cabinet, along with 10 30-round magazines and began killing everyone in sight.

The only individuals able to escape the attack were those who ran out while Lanza stopped to reload. Everyone else inside the building was killed.

The tragedy shook the nation and sparked a debate about gun control for several months. However, to date, there has been no concrete legal or legislative action to prevent a similar incident.

No Legitimate Purpose

Family members of those who were killed, and some who were severely injured escaping the massacre, are targeting the manufacturer, distributor and seller of the AR-15 in this latest lawsuit. The legal argument is based on the belief that the weapon has no legitimate purpose when sold to civilians, so Bushmaster and the sellers knew or should have known that the sale of AR-15s to civilians can only lead to tragic results, yet did nothing to prevent that, effectively making them responsible.

The lawsuit points out that the AR-15 is a semiautomatic assault rifle that has been proven to be useless for home defense because it is too long to be handled safely in close-quarters, its rounds are too powerful, suffering from over-penetration, meaning they endanger all nearby civilians, neighbors and passers-by.

The lawsuit also points out that the high capacity magazines are no help in home defense, as the National Rifle Association’s records indicate that the average number of shots fired during a home defense incident are 2.2 rounds.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has already determined decades ago that assault rifles are not appropriate for sport shooting or hunting, and the rifles were originally designed for military use because they maximize carnage, injury and increase the kill ratio of an individual soldier.

However, military and police forces strictly regulate the use of assault rifles, the lawsuit notes. Assault rifles are carefully stored and accounted for at all times, and soldiers and law enforcement are strictly and extensively trained on their safe use, while there are few or no laws limiting who can buy an AR-15, nothing requiring safety training or safe storage.

No Longer Shocked

The lawsuit points out that there have been so many mass shootings in the U.S., and so many of them involved the AR-15, that the defendants had no excuse by the time of the Sandy Hook shooting to not know something was wrong in how they were either designing or selling their weapons.

“The most chilling legacy of the entrustment of AR-15s to the general population may be that Americans are no longer shocked when combat weapons are used to kill people as they work, shop, commute, attend school, and otherwise go about their lives,” the lawsuit states. “We may be horrified, saddened, even sickened, but we can no longer be shocked.”

The lawsuit is based on exceptions to the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act of 2005, which shields gun manufacturers from lawsuits. The law provides for negligent entrustment lawsuits which state that someone can be held liable for entrusting a product to someone who then uses it to cause harm.


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