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Bushmaster Gun Maker Sued by Newtown Families

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (CN) - Families of those killed in the Newtown school massacre filed a lawsuit Monday against the makers and sellers of the Bushmaster AR-15 rifle using in the shooting.

The superior court complaint for wrongful death and negligence comes one day after the second anniversary of the shooting.

Bushmaster Firearms International and its subsidiaries, Camfour Inc., a distributor, and Riverview Sales, the now-closed shop that sold the gun back in 2010, appear as defendants.

Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder filed the complaint, which says the gun Adam Lanza used for the massacre was designed for military use and should have never been "entrusted" to the general public.

"This weapon was not designed for home defense or hunting," attorney Josh Koskoff said in a statement. "This weapon was designed to efficiently kill other human beings in combat."

Expanding upon this point, the complaint notes that the AR-15 "has little utility for legitimate civilian purposes."

"The rifle's size and overwhelming firepower, so well adapted for the battlefield, are in fact liabilities in home defense," it continues.

Bushmaster advertises rifles like the one used at Sandy Hook as "the ultimate combat weapons system" and "the uncompromising choice when you demand a rifle as mission-adaptable as you are," according to the complaint.

In fact, Bushmaster allegedly uses the unparalleled lethality of the weapon as a selling point. One advertisement for an AR-15 rifle that the complaint describes says: "Forces of opposition, bow down. You are single-handedly outnumbered."

On Dec. 14, 2012, it took Lanza just 264 seconds to kill 20 first-graders and six adults with the Bushmaster AR-15 rifle, model XM15-E2S, according to the complaint.

Police collected 154 spent, .223 shell casings that the Bushmaster rifle had expelled. A state police report released more than a year ago showed that Lanza took the gun from an unlocked safe and killed his mother, Nancy, in her bed before driving to the school. Lanza killed himself before authorities could apprehend him.

"The Bushmaster Defendants knew, or should have known of the civilian population's poor track record of safely securing weapons," the complaint states.

One of the 14 plaintiffs includes Bill Sherlach, the husband of Mary Sherlach, a 56-year-old school psychologist who lost her life while confronting the shooter as he entered the school. Sherlach said the lawsuit is necessary to ensure that the gun industry is held to the same rules as every other industry.

"These companies assume no responsibility for marketing and selling a product to the general population who are not trained to use it nor even understand the power of it," Sherlach said. "I believe in the Second Amendment but I also believe that the gun industry should be brought to bear the same business risk that every other business assumes when it comes to producing, marketing, and selling a product."

The families of Victoria Soto, Dylan Hockley, Noah Pozner, Lauren Rousseau, Benjamin Wheeler, Jesse Lewis, Daniel Barden, Rachel D'Avino appear as co-plaintiffs, as does Natalie Hammond, a teacher injured in the shooting.

The lawsuit seeks punitive damages and injunctive relief.

None of the defendants responded to requests to comment, but the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a trade organization for gun manufacturers, pointed to a law Congress passed in 2005 that was designed to protect gun sellers and manufacturers from negligence lawsuits. The foundation said the complaint by the Sandy Hook families lacked legal merit.

"The U.S. Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support passed the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Firearms Act in 2005 in order to prevent lawsuits that seek to blame manufacturers for the criminal misuse of products that were lawfully sold," NSSF said in a statement. "Like all Americans, we have great sympathy for the families represented in this suit. This tragedy was caused by the criminal actions of a mentally unstable individual."

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