Trials & Litigation

Families of 9 school-shooting victims sue maker, seller of Bushmaster rifle used in Newtown massacre

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The families of nine children shot to death at a Connecticut elementary school on Dec. 14, 2012, as well as a surviving teacher, have filed suit against the manufacturer, distributor and seller of the semi-automatic Bushmaster AR-15 rifle used in the attack.

Adam Lanza killed a total of 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School that day before killing himself. He shot his mother to death earlier, as she was asleep at the home they shared in Newtown. The Bushmaster rifle he used in the school shootings was purchased by Adam Lanza’s mother.

“In order to continue profiting from the sale of AR-15s, defendants chose to disregard the unreasonable risks the rifle posed outside of specialized, highly regulated institutions like the armed forces and law enforcement,” the plaintiffs contend in a complaint filed in Bridgeport Superior Court. They seek unspecified monetary damages, the Associated Press reports.

Although a 2005 federal law known as the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act bars most lawsuits against gun makers, an exception applies concerning negligent entrustment.

That is defined by the law as “the supplying of a qualified product by a seller for use by another person when the seller knows, or reasonably should know, the person to whom the product is supplied is likely to, and does, use the product in a manner involving unreasonable risk of physical injury to the person or others,” the Hartford Courant reports.

The plaintiffs allege that Remington Outdoor Co., which owns Bushmaster Firearms International; distributor Camfour; and the now-shuttered Riverview Gun Sales outlet negligently entrusted to a third party a rifle that was not suitable for civilian use, the Wall Street Journal reports (sub. req.).

Remington declined to comment when contacted by the newspaper, and the other two defendants did not respond to requests for comment.

In a Washington Times interview last year, however, George Kollitides—chairman and CEO of Freedom Group, which owns Remington and Bushmaster—said Adam Lanza was to blame, not the rifle.

“He killed the gun’s owner, stole her car, stole her gun and then went to a school and killed innocent kids,” Kollitides said. “No background checks could have prevented that. … Only two things could have potentially stopped him: his mother locking up her guns and an armed guard. Even then, he could have driven his stolen car into a playground full of kids. He was intent on killing, which we know is already illegal.”

A lawyer for the plaintiffs had a different perspective, the Wall Street Journal reports.

“There is so much ample evidence of the inability of the civilian world to control these weapons, that [it] is no longer reasonable to entrust them to for that purpose,” attorney Joshua Koskoff told the newspaper. “How many massacres do there have to be before for that is realized?”

CNN Money and NBC News also have stories.

Related coverage: “Shooter in Newtown school massacre had weapons and ammo galore, officials say” “Sandy Hook school shooting report calls Lanza obsessed with mass murder, says he acted alone”

See also: “Report: Sandy Hook shooter never got needed treatment despite disabilities dating to early childhood”

Boston Globe (opinion): “Sandy Hook promises unkept”

Nation Now (Los Angeles Times, sub. req.): “Two years after Sandy Hook, poll finds more support for gun rights”

Washington Post (op ed): “A teacher’s open letter to Congress: What kids need two years after Sandy Hook”

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