18 April 2019
Relatives of victims of gun violence gather in Washington, D.C., to mark the second anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre. Photo: AFP
Relatives of victims of gun violence gather in Washington, D.C., to mark the second anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre. Photo: AFP

Sandy Hook victims’ families sue rifle maker

The families of nine people killed in a mass shooting in an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, two years ago sued the maker of the gun used in the attack, saying the weapon should not have been sold because it had no reasonable civilian purpose.

While the AR-15 assault weapon used in the attack on Sandy Hook Elementary School was legally sold in Connecticut, the lawsuit contends that the weapon should not have been available to 20-year-old gunman Adam Lanza, Reuters reported. The AR-15 is manufactured by Bushmaster, a privately held company based in Windham, Maine.

Lanza shot dead 20 first-graders and six educators on Dec. 14, 2012. The massacre sparked a fresh debate on gun rights, which are protected by the Second Amendment of the US Constitution.

“This is a weapon that is designed for military use, for killing as many people as efficiently as possible,” Michael Koskoff, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, told the news agency. “It’s negligent for any seller to sell a weapon like that to the general public.”

The lawsuit, filed with Connecticut Superior Court in Bridgeport by the families of nine of the people killed in the attack and a person who was wounded, seeks unspecified monetary damages.

The 40-page suit names Bushmaster as well as a weapons distributor and the retailer that sold the gun used in the shooting as defendants.

The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence has brought dozens of lawsuits, many successful, against gun makers and sellers when there was evidence that a gun was wrongly sold to a person who went on to use it in a crime, said Jonathan Lowy, the group’s director for legal action.

But the Sandy Hook suit makes a broader case, attempting to get around protections for gun makers included in the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which blocked liability suits against gun makers when their products were used criminally.

“This immunity does not apply to a claim based on negligent entrustment,” Koskoff was quoted as saying.

Bill Sherlach, whose 56-year-old wife Mary Sherlach was a school psychologist killed in the attack, said the suit was necessary to hold gun makers accountable.

“I believe in the Second Amendment but I also believe that the gun industry should be brought to bear the same business risk that every other business assumes,” Sherlach said in a statement.

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