The Doomed Sandy Hook Lawsuit – By John Culhane DEC. 16 2014 5:21 PM

A sweeping federal gun law could prevent the parents of the school shooting’s victims from ever getting justice.

A makeshift shrine honors the victims of the Sandy Hook shooting, in Newtown, Connecticut, on Dec. 16, 2012. Photo by Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images

Monday, attorneys at the Connecticut law firm of Koskoff, Koskoff, & Bieder announced that they had filed a complaint against Bushmaster, the manufacturer of the XM15-E2S semi-automatic rifle that killed 26 people—including 20 first-graders—at the Sandy Hook Elementary School two years ago.

Nine families who lost a child or adult, plus one teacher who was shot but survived, have joined the lawsuit, and it faces daunting obstacles. Because of an ill-conceived federal law designed to eliminate accountability against those who market and sell guns irresponsibly, it will take a courageous and creative court to allow the claims of the surviving family members even to proceed to trial.

The complaint is a powerful, heartbreaking document. It opens with a reminder of the speed with which the bloodbath unfolded—264 seconds, less than five minutes—and then places the shooting in the larger context of mass killings, including some that have occurred since this should-have-been watershed event. Then, after detailing the complex corporate structure of the manufacturer (here called “Bushmaster” for simplicity’s sake), the document catalogs the lives lost, most of them young. I’ve been unable to get through it despite several attempts.

In that sobering context, the complaint details what’s wrong with the marketing and sale of the XM15-E2S to the general public. The weapon is suitable and effective for the military and for law enforcement, in part because of the procedures in place to ensure that this high-velocity, rapid-fire, large-capacity gun is used only for the limited combat and law enforcement purposes for which it was designed. But when it moves from those tightly controlled environments—where training, storage, and discipline limit the weapon’s use—to the civilian population, everything changes.

No training is required for the ownership and use of the weapon, and some states impose no minimum age at which a person may own guns (and even where there’s an age restriction, it’s lower than the drinking age). Bushmaster compounds this lack of accountability with a marketing strategy that should be sobering even to a Second Amendment absolutist. Clearly designed to appeal to combat fetishists, the advertising campaign contains this chilling copy, quoted in the complaint: “Forces of opposition, bow down. You are single-handedly outnumbered.”

Sandy Hook victims’ families file lawsuit against gun maker – BBC News 15 December 2014 Last updated at 12:32 ET

Distraught people appeared in Newtown, Connecticut, on 14 December 2012

News of the lawsuit comes just days after the second anniversary of the shooting.

The families of nine of the 26 people killed in a 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School have filed a lawsuit against a rifle manufacturer.

The negligence and wrongful death suit was filed in Connecticut against Bushmaster Firearms International.

The families allege the Bushmaster AR-15 rifle used by Adam Lanza, 20, in the incident should not have been made publicly available because it was designed for military use.

Twenty children died in the attack.

“There is one tragically predictable civilian activity in which the AR-15 reigns supreme: mass shootings,” the court documents state.

Adam LAnza undated picture

Adam Lanza killed his mother at home before driving to the school

“Time and again, mentally unstable individuals and criminals have acquired the AR-15 with ease, and they have unleashed the rifle’s lethal power into our streets.”

On 14 December 2012, Lanza killed his mother, Nancy Lanza, before driving to the school and killing 20 children and six adults. He later took his own life when authorities arrived on the scene.

Other defendants in the lawsuit include firearm distributor Camfour and gun store Riverview Gun Sales where Nancy Lanza purchased the AR-15 rifle.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit include Bill Sherlach, whose wife was killed in the shooting, as well as the families of victims Vicki Soto, Dylan Hockley, Noah Pozner, Lauren Rousseau, Benjamin Wheeler, Jesse Lewis, Daniel Barden, Rachel D’Avino and Natalie Hammond, who was injured in the attack.

“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,” Mr Sherlach told US media.

Defendants in the lawsuit have yet to comment publicly on the matter.

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How ‘I can’t breathe’ resonates around the world – By Tara Sonenshine December 05, 2014

At Dire Dawa University in Ethiopia, students asked me last year about gun violence in America. I was on a trip to Africa representing the State Department as a public diplomat, explaining the values and policies of the United States to young people. News of violence in America, including the shooting of children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., had reached Africa the year before, along with countless other stories of shootings at malls and movie theaters. Students wanted to know if America was becoming a violent nation. I did my best to allay concerns, telling them that America remained a nation based on rule of law, inclusion, diversity and democracy.

It is always difficult to calculate the impact of U.S. domestic events on international audiences. But if experience is any guide, news travels fast, and people from Soweto, South Africa to Seoul are watching events in Ferguson, Mo.; Staten Island, N.Y.; and around the country as protests unfold over police shootings. In short, I would say, “Houston, we have a problem.”

Despite disagreements in many quarters of the world over U.S. foreign policy, America, by and large, remains popular overseas. According to the 2013 Pew Study, pre-Ferguson and pre-Staten Island, overall global attitudes toward our country are upbeat. In 28 of 38 nations, half or more of those surveyed express a favorable opinion of the United States, with the exception of China and Pakistan. As has been the case in previous years, Africans overwhelmingly offer favorable assessments of America. In all of the six sub-Saharan nations polled (Uganda, Kenya, Ghana, South Africa, Senegal and Nigeria) roughly seven in 10 see America in a positive light.

The question is: To what degree will recent events — including a new wave of protests over grand juries’ decisions not to indict police officers for the deaths of African-American citizens — change those impressions? Sadly, it is likely that, at least in the short run, citizens in some countries, particularly those with repressive regimes, will harbor negative views of American actions.

The first reason is simply that what global citizens like about America, particularly young global citizens, includes our ideas about democracy and inclusiveness. Even when attitudes towards American foreign policy are negative, the United States gets high marks for its democracy and diversity and its “soft power” as expressed through movies, television and culture. (People also love our scientific, technological and business prowess.) What citizens do not like are extensions of American governmental power or use of state violence. (There is widespread opposition, for example, to the use of drones by the U.S. government to target extremists overseas.)

Global citizens understand racial tensions, ethnic divides, religious strife and political gridlock. But they are likely seeing much more of it emanating from America than usual. More important, global audiences understand, through the lens of 24/7 media and the ubiquity of mobile technology, that Americans are questioning themselves. According to a Pew Research Center poll this summer, “Five decades after Martin Luther King’s historic ‘I Have a Dream’ speech … fewer than half (45 [percent]) of all Americans say the country has made substantial progress toward racial equality.”

America is a model for rule of law and democracy. We must reflect our best selves to each other and to the world. Let’s hope that peaceful protests, inclusive politics, and transparent self-reflection will lead others to see the best in us so that we can continue to lead by example. The world is watching us.

Sonenshine is a former under secretary of State for public diplomacy and public affairs. She teaches at George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs.

Eric Holder: ‘I take personally as a failure’ the inability to pass gun control – By Cheryl K. Chumley – The Washington Times – Tuesday, October 21, 2014

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`If there’s one thing that Eric Holder regrets during his time as attorney general for the United States, it’s his failure to press through a Second Amendment crackdown on the heels of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that left 20 children and six adults dead, he said.

“I think the inability to pass reasonable gun safety laws after the Newtown massacre is something that weighs heavily on my mind,” Mr. Holder said during an interview with CNN.

He was speaking of the White House push to pass a federal background check mandate for all commercial gun sales, as well as an outright ban on so-called assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines, in the wake of the December 2012 school tragedy.

The last of the legislative efforts to fail was a universal background check law that couldn’t make it out of the Democrat-controlled Senate. President Obama then announced a slew of executive actions to curb gun rights.

But Mr. Holder still reflected over the stronger legislation that never did pass.

“And the thought that we could not translate that horror into reasonable — I mean, really reasonable gun safety measures that were supported by the vast majority of the American people is for me something that I take personally as a failure,” he said, The Hill reported. “And something that I think we as a society should take as a failure — a glaring failure that I hope will ultimately be rectified.”
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Obama: Gun law inaction ‘my biggest frustration’ – By JENNIFER EPSTEIN | 6/10/14 5:28 PM EDT Updated: 6/10/14 5:45 PM EDT

‘The United States does not have a monopoly on crazy people,’ he says. | Getty

President Barack Obama said Tuesday that it was “stunning to me” that Congress did not take real action to tighten gun laws following the late 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

“My biggest frustration so far is that this society has not been willing to take some basic steps to keep guns out of the hands of people who can do just unbelievable damage,” Obama said during a question-and-answer session hosted by microblogging platform Tumblr that came hours after a school shooting in Oregon.

Mass shootings have become run of the mill, he said. The United States is “the only developed country on earth where this happens and it happens now once a week, and it’s a one-day story.”

He added that shortcomings in mental health care failed to account for the unusually high number of U.S. mass shootings relative to other nations. “The United States does not have a monopoly on crazy people,” he said.

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Sen. Blumenthal: It’s time to revive the gun control debate – By Aliyah Frumin 05/25/14 02:19 PM

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Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut is urging Congress to revive the debate over gun control legislation in the wake of the deadly, mass shooting near Santa Barbara, Calif. over the weekend.

“We need more resources to make the country healthier and to make sure that these kinds of horrific, insane, mad occurrences are stopped. And the Congress will be complicit if we fail to act,” the Democrat said Sunday on CBS’ Face the Nation. He specifically mentioned background checks and better mental health resources.

Blumenthal was a strong proponent for new measures restricting the sales of firearms after the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Such legislation never passed Congress.

Blumenthal said on CBS that the shootings were eerily reminiscent of those in Newtown.

“I really, sincerely hope that this tragedy, this unimaginable, unspeakable tragedy will provide an impetus to bring back measures that will keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people who are severely troubled or deranged like this young man was, and provide resources,” he said.

In California, authorities said 22-year-old gunman Elliot Oliver Robertson Rodger stabbed three people to death at his apartment on Friday night before opening fire from his car. The rampage left seven people dead and several more injured in the town of Isla Vista. He died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, police said.

Blumenthal said mental health reforms could be the first step in effort to bring more Republicans to the table to find “common ground.”

Republican John Thune of South Dakota, who was also on the show, agreed with Blumenthal about mental health resources but did not call for stronger background checks.

“This was a horrific act of violence that involved not only shooting, but stabbings,” said Thune, adding more specifics of the mass shooting are yet to be made public. We need to “ensure that we have policies in place that will allow people with mental health issues like these to be diagnosed and to be treated…I think that’s something on which there is agreement and that’s where we ought to be focusing our efforts,” Thune said.

US children learn ‘lockdown drill’ – By Laura Trevelyan BBC News, New York 8 February 2014 Last updated at 19:49 ET

Laura Trevelyan with her son, Ben

Many US schools have tightened security since the Sandy Hook massacre of 2012. Safety drills are becoming as common as fire drills but they can prompt difficult conversations at home.

My seven-year-old is a chatterbox, and as the youngest of three boys, he is always keen to be heard. Little in his life goes unreported. Every day has a banner headline.

So he could not wait to tell me about the safety drill he and his classmates had practised.

“It is in case someone has a bad day,” Ben announced with gravity, “we huddle with our teachers and keep quiet until the danger outside has gone away.”

“There is no danger inside,” he explained for emphasis, gazing intently at me with his big blue eyes. I smiled encouragingly, while wincing inwardly, and rapidly changed the subject.

The thought of my children learning how to behave in case there is a gunman on the rampage is deeply unsettling. But for schools across America, the lockdown drill has become a grim necessity.

Although statistically the number of school shootings in the US has remained steady since the mid-1990s, they are a disturbing reality of American life.

Since September there have been 11 school shootings, and that does not even include shootings on college campuses.

In New Mexico, 12-year-olds have threatened their classmates with guns. In Nevada the maths teacher who confronted a middle-school shooter last November was shot dead.

The most chilling school shooting of all was in December 2012. Twenty first-grade students at the Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, were killed by Adam Lanza, who shot his mother and six adults at the school before taking his own life.

The scale of this shooting was so horrifying, and the age of the children so heartbreakingly young, that it led to a push for national gun control which ultimately failed to get through Congress.

I reported on the aftermath of the Newtown shootings, one of the more painful assignments of my career.

Christmas trees for the 20 dead children lined the street by the school – ornaments decorated by friends and family described six- and seven-year-olds who loved football, horses, and Santa Claus.

Is it panic – or preparedness?

The temporary morgue parked near the scene of the shootings was a particularly upsetting sight – the thought of the dead children inside, the same age as my youngest, was hard to contemplate. It was impossible not to wonder how I would cope if it was my child inside that morgue.

Since Newtown, many schools have adopted safety plans. Metal detectors, surveillance cameras and fences have become a fact of life.

All three of my children now practice safety drills – and the school is careful to let parents know in advance in case the topic comes up at home.

One parent, echoing my own feelings, told me it breaks her heart to have her boisterous, talkative five-year-old learning how to hide from a gunman.

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The new leaders on gun safety in 2013? Moms! – By Trymaine Lee 12/31/13 08:15 AM—UPDATED 12/31/13 10:54 AM

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A little more than a month after Neil Heslin’s little boy was shot and killed along with 19 other first-graders at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Heslin sat before a group of Connecticut lawmakers and wondered aloud why any American needed the kind of firepower used in the killings.

“Is there anybody in this room that can give me one reason or challenge this question, why anybody in this room needs to have one of these assault-style weapons or military weapons or high-capacity clips?” Heslin said. Heslin paused for a moment and looked around the room. “And not one person can answer that question or give me an answer.”

Then, he got an answer.

“Our rights will not be infringed!” someone called out. “Second Amendment!” yelled another.

Only weeks had passed since Heslin’s son, Jesse Lewis, 6, and his classmates were gunned down. But already the nation’s collective heartbreak was beginning to spiral into hostility and angry debate over America’s deadly obsession with guns.

After Newtown, there were calls for stricter gun-control measures aimed at keeping firearms out of the hands of people like Adam Lanza, the killer.

The pendulum of the gun control debate has swung back and forth. There have been victories and failures for gun-safety groups, whose efforts have been largely supported by President Barack Obama, other Democrats, and a broad movement that formed after Sandy Hook. But there’s also been more bloodshed.

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After Newtown, few states restricted guns but 36 expanded mental-health funding BY NIRAJ CHOKSHI December 14 at 9:00 am

Frank Kulick adjusts a display of wooden crosses—and a Jewish Star of David—on his front lawn representing the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. (David Goldman/AP)

Frank Kulick adjusts a display of wooden crosses — and a Jewish Star of David — on his front lawn representing the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. (David Goldman/AP)

One year ago, 20 children and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., were gunned down by Adam Lanza. In the aftermath, there was hope among gun-control advocates that the event would spark pro-control reform. They’veset their eyes on on a few states, but over the past year, more of them have loosened gun restrictions than tightened them. While gun control may face an uphill battle, though, a related policy area has seen change in the wake of the tragedy.

“We think that Sandy Hook opened up the eyes of governors and state legislators and policymakers around the country that mental health has been cut enough,” Andrew Sperling, the director of legislative advocacy at the National Alliance on Mental Illness, told Post TV’s “In Play.”

Some 36 states increased their mental health-care budgets in 2013, according to NAMI. In Colorado, where James Holmes opened fire on a crowded movie theater a little over a year ago, the mental-health budget was increased by 13.5 percent.

State-level efforts have focused on five broad categories — the mental-health system, crisis and inpatient care, community mental health, criminal justice and mental health, and civil rights and stigma reduction — NAMI wrote in a fall report.

Many states also focused on catching mental-health issues among children. Nebraska created a pilot program to set up mental-health screenings for some secondary school students. Texas instituted training for school staff to identify mental-health problems; Utah will offer a seminar on the issue for parents. And Minnesota passed bills to improve mental-health services linked to schools.

“A tipping point on the heels of several recent mass shootings, the Newtown tragedy shaped the debate about the lack of access to mental health services and the barriers that many families and individuals face in light of the nation’s fragmented and grossly inadequate mental health system,” the organization wrote in its report.

Watch the “In Play” segment below to learn more about how some states have focused on mental-health improvements since Newtown.

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Maker of guns used in Sandy Hook shootings sees huge sales growth – By: Scott Cohn | CNBC Senior Correspondent – Monday, 9 Dec 2013 | 4:45 PM ET

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Protesters on Monday in New York call on Cerberus Capital Management to divest its gun holdings.

The manufacturer of the assault-style rifles used in the mass shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., last year said sales of its products rose as much as 36 percent in the year since the incident.

The disclosure comes in financial guidance released Monday by the Freedom Group, a collection of gun manufacturers that has recently begun referring to itself as Remington Outdoor Co., reflecting its most popular brand.

The company says 2013 sales are expected to be between $1.25 billion and $1.275 billion, compared with $931.9 million in 2012. Profits are expected to soar as well. The company projects adjusted 2013 EBITDA to be between $235 million and $240 million, more than a 50 percent increase from 2012.

In its updated financial guidance, the company does not say which of its products is primarily responsible for the increase in sales. Last month, the company reported strong demand since December 2012 across its product line, particularly for rifles, handguns and ammunition.

Investigators concluded last month that Adam Lanza, 20, used a Bushmaster model XM15-E2S rifle to kill 26 people at the school on Dec. 14, 2012.

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