Education

Families of Newtown Victims Sue Maker, Seller of Gun Used in Shootings

By Evie Blad — December 15, 2014 2 min read
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Nine families of victims and one survivor of the December 2012 school shootings in Newtown, Conn., filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the manufacturer, distributor, and seller of the gun used in the attack Monday, the day after the two-year anniversary of the attack, their attorneys said Monday.

The complaint names as defendants gun manufacturer Bushmaster, distributor Camfour, and gun shop Riverview Gun Sales. Plaintiffs are families of nine children and adults killed by Lanza and one surviving teacher who was shot multiple times in the attack.

In the attack, gunman Adam Lanza shot his mother at home before shooting 20 children and six adults at the school. He then killed himself. Lanza used a powerful Bushmaster AR-15 rifle at the school, firing 154 shots in a matter of minutes, a state investigative report found.

The lawsuit says the AR-15, which was “designed as a military weapon,” was “designed to deliver maximum carnage with extreme efficiency” and that it has “little utility for legitimate civilian purposes,” the suit says. The 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 says.

“Time and again, mentally unstable individuals and criminals have acquired an AR-15 with ease, and they have unleashed the rifle’s lethal power into our streets, our malls, our places of worship, and our schools,” the complaint says.

Bill Sherlach, whose wife died in the shootings, said in a statement:

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 defendants have not returned calls to various media outlets.

The ability of victims of gun violence to sue gun manufacturers is somewhat limited under the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which “generally shields federally licensed manufacturers, dealers, and sellers of firearms or ammunition, as well as trade associations, from any civil action ‘resulting from the criminal or unlawful misuse’ of a firearms or ammunition,” according to the Congressional Research Service.

Lawyers for the Newtown families sued under an exemption in that act known as “negligent entrustment,” defined in 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.”

Also: Don’t miss Education Week’s round-up of Newtown coverage.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.

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