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Sandy Hook families sue gun manufacturer of military-style assault weapon

Parents of the first-graders who died in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting are expected to file a lawsuit on Monday against gun manufacturer Bushmaster.
A man adjusts a display of wooden crosses, and a Jewish Star of David, representing the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, on his front lawn, Dec. 17, 2012, in Newtown, Conn. (Photo by David Goldman/AP)
A man adjusts a display of wooden crosses, and a Jewish Star of David, representing the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, on his front lawn, Dec. 17, 2012, in Newtown, Conn.

Ten families that were affected by the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School two years ago filed a lawsuit on Monday against Bushmaster, the manufacturer of the firearm used by the gunman on Dec. 14, 2012.

RELATED: Parents file notices of wrongful death claims

The families are working with attorneys from Koskoff Koskoff & Bieder in Bridgeport, Connecticut, to file civil action against the North-Carolina based company for making, distributing, and selling the AR-15 rifle, which the gunman used to kill 26 people in less than five minutes at Sandy Hook. The action alleges negligence and wrongful death.

Nine of the families involved include victims' parents and spouses. The tenth representative is a teacher who was shot multiple times, but survived.

In their legal motion, made public on Monday, the families say 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.

Bushmaster's parent firm, Remington Outdoor Company, did not immediately respond to msnbc's request for comment. Bushmaster is the largest supplier of combat rifles to civilians, according to the lawsuit.

The families allege that Bushmaster knew, or should have known of the high risks posed by the rifle, including the ability to use it to inflict maximum casualties and to generate multiple deaths and serious injury.

Sunday was the two-year anniversary of the 2012 shooting, which took the lives of 20 first-graders and six educators, as well as the gunman and his mother in Newtown, Connecticut. The shooter obtained the rifle and 10 30-round magazines from an unlocked gun closet in the house he shared with his mother, before driving to the elementary school on the morning of Dec. 14. Around 9:30 a.m., the gunman shot his way into the locked school with his Bushmaster rifle, then proceeded to kill 26 people and himself. The tragedy was the second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history, after the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech that claimed the lives of 32 people.

By the end of last week, at least a dozen families of Sandy Hook victims filed notices of wrongful death claims on behalf of their children. Their action — opening an “estate” in the children's names — allows family members to become representatives on behalf of the individuals who died. The move, however, doesn’t indicate the relatives ultimately will file a lawsuit in superior court. Individuals, companies, and governmental agencies legally can be at fault in a wrongful death claim if they were found to have acted negligently and intentionally.

RELATED: Newtown families 'dedicated for life' to reducing gun violence

One of the lawyers, Michael Koskoff, represented the unsuccessful $1.5 billion wrongful death lawsuit brought by the family of late singer Michael Jackson against AEG Live, the company that promoted the pop icon's would-be comeback concerts. Karen Hinton of Hinton Communications in Washington, D.C., is joining the firm in taking legal action against Bushmaster. Hinton previously worked as senior adviser on communications for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo when he served as housing secretary during the Clinton Administration, and as press aide for the late Democratic National Committee Chairman Ron Brown, according to her website.

The 2012 tragedy renewed a nationwide debate about gun control, and led to a massive public relations campaign from President Barack Obama for stricter laws around the country. A conversation also began about military-style weapons. Magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition are generally considered “large capacity”; some magazines can hold up to 100 rounds. Large-capacity magazines are used in half of mass shootings in the United States, according to a review by Mother Jones that analyzed 62 such incidents during a 30-year span. AR-15 rifles are designed to accept large-capacity magazines. 

Several grassroots groups, including Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, have pushed for Congress to close the loophole in the federal system that allows Americans to buy firearms online and at gun shows without first passing a background check. In April 2013, the Senate failed to pass a bill that would have expanded background checks.

The details of the lawsuit were delivered to a State Marshal and released Monday morning.