U.S. News

AR-15 rifle is lethal link between San Bernardino, Sandy Hook

A member of the North Florida Survival Group holds an AR-15 rifle as he joins other members in performing an enemy contact drill during a field training exercise in Old Town, Florida, December 8, 2012. REUTERS/Brian Blanco

(Reuters) - The AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, a common link in many U.S. mass killings such as last week’s California massacre, is recklessly marketed for its “capacity to inflict mass casualties,” families of Connecticut elementary school victims said on Monday.

In an opinion piece published in USA Today, relatives of some of the 26 children and staff killed in the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School lashed out at the manufacturer of some AR-15 rifles, a firearms conglomerate known as Remington Outdoor.

“What should surprise - and horrify - us is that Remington actively promotes the AR-15’s capacity to inflict mass casualties,” the Sandy Hook families wrote in the opinion piece.

“In an era when mass shooters are often equipped with fatigues, vests or other combat gear, this type of marketing is not only unethical, it also is reckless,” the piece said. It was written by the families of victims Benjamin Wheeler, Dylan Hockley, and Noah Pozner, all age 6, Daniel Barden, 7, and Victoria Soto, 27, under the byline “Sandy Hook families.”

Last week a married couple opened fire with AR-15s at a holiday party in San Bernardino, killing 14 people, and a similar weapon was used by the killer at Sandy Hook. An AR-15 also was used by shooters at an Oregon college in October where nine people died and an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater where 12 died in 2012.

In response to the Sandy Hook slayings, the families said, George Kollitides, who was then chief executive of Remington Outdoors, said, “It’s very easy to blame an inanimate object. Any kind of instrument in the wrong hands can be put to evil use.”

After the Sandy Hook massacre, the Obama administration tried but failed to enact new gun control measures. In the opinion piece on Monday, the Sandy Hook families noted that U.S. unwillingness and inability to control guns puts a harsh spotlight on Remington’s marketing push for its assault rifles.

“Extolling a weapon’s destructive potential might actually attract the wrong hands,” the families said.

In August Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer by revenue, said it would stop selling the AR-15 and other semi-automatic rifles because of sluggish demand and would concentrate on other hunting and sportsman firearms.

Reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York; Editing by Bill Trott