A lawsuit can proceed against the maker of the gun used in the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that left 20 children and 6 adults dead, a Connecticut judge ruled on Thursday.
Bushmaster, manufacturer of the AR-15 assault weapon used in the attack in Newtown, Connecticut, had asked a judge to dismiss the lawsuit, saying it was protected by a 2005 federal law blocking lawsuits against gunmakers when their products were used in the commission of crimes.
The lawsuit was filed in 2014 by the families of nine of the people who were killed.Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis declined to dismiss it, saying the gunmaker, a unit of Madison, North Carolina-based Freedom Group Inc, had not proven that the stopped her from hearing the case.
"The Superior Court has subject matter jurisdiction over a wrongful death action where the injury arose out of conduct by the defendants," Bellis wrote. "Any immunity that PLCAA may provide does not implicate this court's subject matter jurisdiction." The lawsuit seeks unspecified financial damages. It argues that the legally purchased AR-15 used by Adam Lanza in the attack should never have been sold because it had no reasonable civilian purpose. Attorney Josh Koskoff, representing the families, welcomed the judge's decision and said in a statement, "The families look forward to continuing their fight in court." An attorney for Bushmaster could not be reached for comment.
Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton said in a statement Thursday that the ruling was "an important step forward for these families, who are bravely fighting to hold irresponsible gun makers accountable for their actions. They deserve their day in court," she added. "Period."
Senator Bernie Sanders has yet to release a statement of his own, but was criticized earlier this month when he told the NY Daily News he didn't think gun manufacturers should be sued for selling a legal product that its buyer "misused."
"But," he clarified in the same interview, "I do believe that gun manufacturers and gun dealers should be able to be sued when they should know that guns are going into the hands of wrong people."
Lanza, 20, ended his attack by turning his gun on himself. Before going to the school, he fatally shot his mother, Nancy, who had bought the gun. After the shooting, Connecticut's Democratic governor, Dannel Malloy, pushed through one of the strictest gun laws in the United States, banning more than 100 types of military-style rifles and limiting ammunition magazines to 10 bullets. "We've passed the toughest gun laws in the nation for a reason," Malloy said in a statement. "These families deserve this, the ruling is the right one. The gun industry should not have protections that no other industry in America sees." Modified versions of the AR-15 are legal in Connecticut.