Newtown Families Sue Manufacturer of Gun Used in Sandy Hook Shooting

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On Monday, two years and one day after a shooter took the lives of 20 elementary school students and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, families of nine of the victims filed a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the weapon that killed their loved ones.

The complaint asserts liability for wrongful deaths, arguing that Bushmaster Firearms Inc., the manufacturer, shouldn’t have been selling civilians the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle used in the massacre. Shooter Adam Lanza’s mother had purchased the rifle legally. Lanza shot and killed his mother with another gun before taking her Bushmaster AR-15 and heading for Sandy Hook.

The suit goes at lengths to argue that the AR-15 has no reason to be sold for civilian use. Although the rifle is useful to the military, it says, it is predictable that selling it to civilians could result in mass shootings:

The AR-15, however, has little utility for legitimate civilian purposes. The rifle’s size and overwhelming firepower, so well adapted to battlefield are in fact liabilities in home defense. … But there is one tragically predictable civilian activity in which the AR-15 reigns supreme: mass shootings.

The families filed the suit in Connecticut Superior Court and listed as additional defendants weapons distributor Camfour and Riverview Sales, the shop that sold the gun used in the attack, as well as its owner, David Laguercia.

The families have a formidable legal hurdle ahead of them called the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which protects gun manufacturers and dealers from liability when their products are used in crimes. The families are seeking to use an exception of the law for cases when the companies should be able to know that their guns could be used in a way that could injure others, the Associated Press reports.

Bushmaster faced a similar suit a decade ago, when families and victims of the Washington, D.C. area sniper shootings that left 10 dead settled with the manufacturer and a gun shop for $2.5 million. Laguercia also had recent legal trouble when he pleaded guilty last year to federal misdemeanor charges regarding his failure to keep proper records and selling weapons without completing background checks. However, those charges were not related to the Sandy Hook attack.

The suit says that the plaintiffs seek “nothing more and nothing less than accountability for the consequences” of the defendant’s choice to “disregard the unreasonable risks the rifle posed outside of specialized, highly regulated institutions like the armed forces and law enforcement.” Officially, they are seeking unspecified monetary damages.

Historically, government discussion on gun control has lived in legislatures, and not courts. The Sandy Hook case is very particular to the specific incident two years ago, so it may be better-suited in a court. However, it doesn’t come without major obstacles.

The families will have to link Bushmaster, Camfour, Riverview, and Laguercia to Lanza. This could prove especially difficult given that the gun was sold to his mother and not him. That is just the beginning of their problem. Whether or not they can make that connection, they have to successfully prove that any of the defendants could have foreseen the attack at Sandy Hook happen as a result of the sale of the rifle. Practically, this would rule out Bushmaster and Camfour, as they are far up the chain. However, it could be possible for the plaintiffs to hit Riverview and owner Laguercia, and paint him as negligent. Considering what is at stake, though, successfully suing a single gun shop and owner doesn’t seem like a really big win for gun control–although this could be a symbolic victory.

Zaid Shoorbajee
Zaid Shoorbajee is a an undergraduate student at The George Washington University majoring in journalism and economics. He is from the Washington, D.C. area and likes reading and writing about international affairs, politics, business and technology (especially when they intersect). Contact Zaid at



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