Nine families of victims in the Sandy Hook shooting, as well as a teacher injured in the attack, have filed suit against the makers of the Bushmaster AR-15 rifle used to kill 20 children and six adults. Claims for wrongful death and negligence were included in the suit filed in a Connecticut state court. The lawsuit, filed in Bridgeport Superior Court, says that the Bushmaster AR-15 model XM15-E2S rifle is designed for mass casualty assaults, with little civilian use for self-defense or hunting.
It’s alleged further the rifle’s manufacturers, Freedom Group Inc. and Remington Outdoor Company Inc., continued to sell the rifle in the civilian market despite its prevalent use in mass shootings. The families say that the Bushmaster AR-15, as an assault weapon, should not have been entrusted to the general public. The families said:
[D]efendants know that the AR-15’s military firepower, unsuited to home defense or recreation, enables an individual in possession of the weapon to inflict unparalleled civilian carnage. 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 suit, which seeks damages, also names firearm distributor Camfour Inc. and Riverview Gun Sales Inc., the gun store where Nancy Lanza bought the rifle her son used in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The families allege that the defendants sold AR15s to the civilian market in a way that foreseeably leads to their use in mass shootings. Josh Koskoff of Koskoff Koskoff & Bieder, a lawyer representing the families, said in a statement:
The AR-15 was specifically engineered for the United States military to meet the needs of changing warfare. In fact, one of the Army’s specifications for the AR-15 was that it has the capability to penetrate a steel helmet. This weapon was not designed for home defense or hunting. This weapon was designed to efficiently kill other human beings in combat.
The families say that the AR-15 was developed by the U.S. Army to increase soldiers’ firepower in combat, ultimately adopting the rifle as its standard-issue service and renaming it the M16. Like its military counterpart, the AR-15 can empty a 30-round magazine in less than 10 seconds. The high velocity of the bullets makes each hit “catastrophic.” The large-capacity magazines can prolong assaults. The families say there’s no evidence that semiautomatic rifles like the AR-15 are commonly used in home defense. The Bureau of America analyzed semiautomatic assault rifles with large capacity magazines and concluded that their ability to shoot large numbers of bullets in seconds “serves a function in combat and crime, but serves no sporting purpose.” Plaintiff Bill Sherlach, whose wife Mary Sherlach was killed confronting the shooter, said in a statement that, while he believes in the Second Amendment, the gun industry should be held to the same rules as other industries. Mr. Sherlach had this to say:
In business, measuring risk prior to producing, marketing and selling a product or service is standard procedure. For far too long, the gun industry has been given legislative safe harbor from this standard business practice. These companies assume no responsibility for marketing and selling a product to the general population who are not trained to use it nor even understand the power of it.
The lawsuit states that, while military personnel and law enforcement undergo training to handle assault rifles and must adhere to safety and storage protocols, there is no institutional structure in place to ensure safe and intelligent use of those weapons by the public. The suit states further that about half of American gun owners do not store their weapons securely. Most states don’t require a permit or license to buy an AR-15. The assault rifle has been used in highly publicized mass shootings around the country. It’s stated in the complaint:
The most chilling legacy of the entrustment of the 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. We may be horrified, saddened, even sickened — but we can no longer be shocked.
The Plaintiffs include the families of Vicki Soto, Rachel D’Avino, Dylan Hockley, Noah Pozner, Lauren Rousseau, Benjamin Wheeler, Jesse Lewis and Daniel Barden, in addition to injured teacher Natalie Hammond. These were real people who were shot down in cold blood. The Plaintiffs are represented by Josh Koskoff and Alinor who are with of Koskoff Koskoff & Bieder, a firm located in Connecticut.
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