Sandy Hook victims' families can proceed with their case against gun manufacturer

Connecticut Supreme Court Suit Against AR-15 Manufacturer Can Proceed AP

The maker of the semi-automatic assault rifle that was used in the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012 can potentially be held liable for the 26 killings the gun was used to commit, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

The firearms company had convinced a lower court that a federal law enacted in 2005 limited the liability of firearms manufacturers and dealers, essentially preempting wrongful death suits in state and federal courts.

The plaintiffs include a survivor and relatives of nine people killed in the massacre.

The plaintiffs alleged that Remington promoted the Bushmaster AR-15 style rifle for use against "perceived enemies", an argument a majority of the judges said deserved further scrutiny.

Whoa, this is huge: The Connecticut Supreme Court just revived Sandy Hook families' lawsuit against Bushmaster for recklessly marketing the AR-15.

The ruling on Thursday overturned a lower court's judgment rejecting the lawsuit, which charged that Remington Outdoor Co., arms distributor Camfour, and the CT store which sold the gun used in the massacre could be held liable. They argue that Remington glorified the weapon in marketing it to young people.

In 2016, a lower-court judge dismissed the case in response to a request by Remington, citing a federal statute that protects gun manufacturers and distributors from being implicated if their weapons are used in criminal activity.

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Lanza, 20, shot his way into the locked school in Newtown on December 14, 2012, and killed 20 first-graders and six educators with a Bushmaster XM15-E2S rifle, similar to an AR-15. The Connecticut Supreme Court agreed with Bellis: "We expressly reject the plaintiffs' theory that, merely by selling semiautomatic rifles-which were legal at the time-to the civilian population, the defendants became responsible for any crimes committed with those weapons".

"The families' goal has always been to shed light on Remington's calculated and profit-driven strategy to expand the AR-15 market and court high-risk users, all at the expense of Americans' safety", Koskoff said Thursday. "Today's decision is a critical step toward achieving that goal", said Josh Koskoff, one of the attorneys for the families, in a statement.

Military-style rifles have been used in many other mass shootings, including in Las Vegas in October 2017 when 58 people were killed and hundreds more injured.

Timothy Lytton, Georgia State University law professor and author of a book on gun litigation, said the decision was a setback for gun makers, which have been shielded from liability in mass shootings.

The case had been closely watched by advocates on both sides of the gun issue. Courts have dismissed other similar wrongful death lawsuits on those grounds. Even though the court allowed the case to proceed, he said, there still be a very high bar for successfully suing Remington.

The ruling reinstating the lawsuit came after approximately 15 months of judicial deliberations and approximately five years after 10 families initially filed the case, spurred by the massacre that left 26 people - mostly young children - dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School in CT in December 2012.

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