Families of Sandy Hook massacre victims can’t sue Bushmaster for making gun that killed 26 people at school

Published: Salon (October 17, 2016)

It shouldn’t have to be a longshot to prove in court that a company which makes semiautomatic rifles is recklessly endangering people’s lives, but it is.

On Friday, a judge in Connecticut dismissed a high-profile lawsuit against the manufacturer of the Bushmaster AR-15, which was used in the December 2012 shooting spree that took the lives of 26 children and adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Although most liability suits raised by gun-violence victims and their families have been thwarted by the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act of 2005 (PLCAA), which protects gun manufacturers from these types of suits, the plaintiffs cited the “negligent entrustment” clause, which extends to cases “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.” Unfortunately for the Sandy Hook parents, Judge Barbara Bellis found that the “negligent entrustment” clause did not apply to their case.

“The present case seeks damages for harms, including the deaths of the plaintiffs’ decedents, that were caused solely by the criminal misuse of a weapon by Adam Lanza,” Judge Bellis wrote. “Accordingly, this action falls squarely within the broad immunity provided by PLCAA.”

This directly rebutted the argument made by the plaintiffs’ lead attorney, Josh Koskoff. “How did a weapon used in Vietnam and the streets of Fallujah end on the floor of Vicky Soto’s first grade classroom?” he asked. “It did not get there by accident and the shooter did not use it by accident. Remington made the choice to trust the most notorious killing weapon the military has ever seen to civilians. If they didn’t choose to sell the gun to civilians, we wouldn’t have had a Sandy Hook.”

Despite or perhaps because of its lethal reputation, sales of the AR-15 have skyrocketed since the Sandy Hook shooting. It was also used in the mass shootings at Aurora, Colorado; San Berardino, California, and Orlando, Florida.

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