Sandy Hook Families Are Suing Bushmaster for Making Adam Lanza's Rifle

In a ​civil complaint, they claim the Bushmaster in particular allowed the mentally disturbed 20-year-old to kill 26 people in less than five minutes.

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Dec 15 2014, 9:52pm

At around 9:30 AM on December 14, 2012, Adam Lanza walked up to Sandy Hook Elementary School with an Izhmash Saiga 12-gauge semiautomatic shotgun, a 10-mm Glock 20, and a 9-mm Sig Sauer P226. Crucially, he also came equipped with a Bushmaster XM15-E2s and ten 30-round magazines for it.

That's the weapon he was clutching as he blasted through a glass panel at the building's entrance. If the 20-year-old had been wielding anything else, it would have been a whole lot more difficult to murder children, teachers and administrators in a matter of seconds—or at least that's what bereaved folks in Newtown, Connecticut, are arguing in court. As the Daily Beast and other outlets reported Monday, ten families of Lanza victims are suing the makers of what they call the murderer's "weapon of choice." In a civil complaint, they claim the Bushmaster in particular allowed the mentally disturbed 20-year-old to kill 26 people in less than five minutes.

"Defendants know that, as a result of selling AR-15s to the civilian market, individuals unfit to operate these weapons gain access to them," writes attorney Joshua Koskoff. Bushmaster is the country's largest supplier of combat weapons to civilians, according to the complaint.

The 40-page document goes into the history of the rifle: The AR-15 was developed after World War II, when the US Army analyzed casualty reports and determined that shooting lots of bullets fast meant soldiers could kill more people. A company called Armalite built a machine that was "lightweight, air-cooled, gas-operated, and magazine-fed" that was so good "its lethality was not dependent on good aim or ideal combat conditions." When equipped with the equal-opportunity killing machine, five men became as deadly as 11.

Later, in a section called "The Road to Sandy Hook," the attorney chronicles other times the times AR-15s have been used to mow down civilians. "Bushmaster defendants continued marketing the XM15-E2S and similar rifles as combat weapons that would make others 'bow down,'" the suit says, before taking aim at the company's marketing materials.

The attorney also points out use of the phrase "ultimate combat weapons system" and an ad featuring the silhouette of a solider superimposed over an American flag. "The Bushmaster Defendants' militaristic marketing reinforces the image of the AR-15 as a combat weapon used for the purpose of waging war and killing human beings," he writes.

Finally, the suit lists biographical descriptions of victims. Vicki Leigh Soto, who was a 27-year-old first-grade teacher, is described as having had "something of an obsession with pink flamingos." Dylan Hockley, a six-year-old who died at Sandy Hook, apparently "loved the moon, garlic bread, the color purple, cuddling and bouncing on the trampoline."

Besides Bushmaster—which could not immediately be reached for comment—families of the deceased are suing the firearms dealer who sold the fated gun to Nancy Lanza, the shooter's mother. Defendant David LaGuercia couldn't immediately be reached for comment, and is already serving three years of probation for violating federal firearms laws in an unrelated case.

Koskoff, whose firm was behind Michael Jackson's mother Katherine's wrongful death suit, also did not return requests for comment. In this case, he's going after Bushmaster for both monetary and punitive damages, as well attorney's fees and injunctive relief.

Follow Allie Conti on Twitter.

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