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