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This is an instrument of war, designed for the battlefield, that is sold and marketed through the general public. ... The manufacturer, the distributor, the point of sale should all be accountable for that.
THE ASSAULT rifle used to kill children and their teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 has no business being used anywhere but on a battlefield, argued victims’ families who asked a judge Monday to let them sue the gun manufacturers who put the weapons on the market.
A Connecticut judge heard their impassioned pleas in a closely watched hearing that could open a path around a federal law that for more than a decade has shielded gunmakers from liability involving their weapons.
On one side are still-grieving relatives who believe the gun companies, along with shooter Adam Lanza, are also responsible for the rampage — and want to hold their feet to the firearms.
“This is an instrument of war, designed for the battlefield, that is sold and marketed through the general public. In less than five minutes, you know what happens,” Mark Barden, whose son Daniel was killed in the school massacre, said before the hearing in Bridgeport.
“The manufacturer, the distributor, the point of sale should all be accountable for that. The manufacturers are marketing to people like Adam Lanza. And they know it. Now we know it. And it’s time that everybody knows it. It’s time they take responsibility for that.”
Nicole Hockley, whose son Dylan was killed, said Lanza knew the AR-15 had a lot of firepower.
“There were a lot of guns that our shooter could have chosen from his arsenal and his mother’s arsenal in order to attack the people at Sandy Hook school,” Hockley said. “He chose the AR-15 be- cause he was aware of how many shots he could get out. That it would serve his objective to kill as many people as possible in the shortest time possible.”
On the other side are the moneymaking pistol peddlers like Remington — part of the North Carolina-based Freedom Group and the owner of AR-15 maker Bushmaster Firearms —who argue that they are protected by a law that shields gun manufacturers from most lawsuits over criminal use of their products.
An AR-15 was used in the San Bernardino, Calif., shootings as well.
“We’re probably closest to the ground,” lawyer Peter Berry, who represented Riverside Gun Sales, said in court. “We’re the ones who sold the firearm to Nancy Lanza. However, we did not sell the firearm to Adam Lanza. Adam Lanza killed his mother and afterwards
took the firearm to Sandy Hook where he committed horrific acts.
“There is no allegation that my client ever met Adam Lanza. The firearm was not used to injure people by the person who purchased the firearm, that being Nancy Lanza.”
Berry added that “the chain is broken when Adam Lanza kills his mother and steals the firearm. He, at that point, is on his own.”
But Joshua Koskoff, a lawyer for the families, argued that the gunmaker was liable long before Nancy Lanza purchased the AR-15 used to kill 20 boys and girls and six school staffers on Dec. 14, 2012.
Koskoff argued that the gunmakers sold a weapon designed for wars in order to boost gun sales. He said soldiers are required to train and conceal an AR-15 at Army bases, while civilians can obtain one without any safety precautions.
“It’s like negligence on steroids,” he said.
At issue is the 2005 federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms, which gives gun manufacturers immunity from any lawsuit related to injuries that result from criminal misuse of their product.
The case before Connecticut District Judge Barbara Bellis is an uphill battle, but families and their supporters said they believe their case should at least be heard.
“These families deserve to have their day in court,” Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy said. “Though nothing can bring their loved ones back, they deserve to have their arguments heard.”
Bellis asked lawyers from both sides to return April 19. She will decide then if the case has merits to go before a jury.