The gun manufacturer responsible for producing the military-style assault weapon used by a shooter to kill 20 first-graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School has moved a lawsuit filed against the company from state to federal court, where it could have less chance of succeeding.
Ten families that were affected by the mass shooting on Dec. 14, 2012, filed a lawsuit this past December against Bushmaster for making, distributing, and selling the AR-15 rifle. The gunman used the firearm to kill 26 people in less than five minutes at the Newtown, Connecticut, school. The action alleges negligence and wrongful death.
A U.S. district judge reviewed the case last week and accepted the contention brought forth by Bushmaster’s parent firm, Remington Outdoor Company. The manufacturer argued that federal court is a more appropriate jurisdiction than Connecticut state court because the business is located in North Carolina.
The company likely made the argument because federal courts typically dismiss cases against gun manufacturers, said Jerry Reisman, a partner at Reisman, Peirez, Reisman and Capobianco in New York. Remington, he argued, "realized that if the case continues in the state court, the plaintiffs might have carved out a home court advantage and find a local judge sympathetic to their cause."
A 2005 federal shield law prevents people from suing gun manufacturers for allowing crimes and killings to happen with their products, he said. The legislation includes an exception for cases where businesses should realize a firearm could be used to harm another individual.
"Many members of Congress, many members of state legislatures, come from rural communities in which guns are popular. Many people hunt, many people use guns for recreational purposes. But guns, because of their prevalence, fall into the hands of criminals and are most often used in crimes and often end up in homicides," Reisman told msnbc.
In their legal motion, the families said the rifle shouldn’t have been entrusted to the general public because it is a military-style assault weapon that is unsuited for civilian use, “engineered to deliver maximum carnage with extreme efficiency.” Individuals deemed mentally unfit to operate the weapon can gain access to the firearm, they added. The families ask that the company admits accountability for the consequences of selling the rifle.
Nine of the families involved include victims’ parents and spouses. The tenth representative is a teacher who was shot multiple times, but survived.
The defendants in the case also include Camfour, a distributor of firearms, and the now-closed East Windsor store where the gunman's mother bought the Bushmaster rifle, according to the Associated Press.
The parents of Jesse Lewis and Noah Pozner, two of the first-graders who died in the massacre, earlier this month filed a lawsuit against Newtown and the Newtown Board of Education. They allege inadequate security at the building where the gunman killed their children. Both families also are included in the lawsuit against Bushmaster.