The Case Against the Sandy Hook Gunmakers Gets a Legal Lifeline

A judge says protections for gun companies can’t quash a suit brought by the families of massacre victims.

<a href="">Dave Collins</a>/AP

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This morning, a Connecticut judge denied a motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought against the manufacturers of the Bushmaster assault rifle by several families of victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre. Bridgeport Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis’ decision comes as a surprise since similar suits have been thrown out under the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), a federal law that grants arms manufacturers broad immunity from liability claims.

The Sandy Hook families allege that the companies that made the AR-15-style Bushmaster rifle used in the attack “know that civilians are unfit to operate AR-15s, and yet continue selling the Bushmaster XM15-E2S to the civilian market, disregarding the unreasonable risks that the weapon poses.” The plaintiffs further allege that Bushmaster Firearms, Remington Arms, and the Freedom Group should have known that selling these rifles to the civilians would pose “an unreasonable and egregious risk” of injury or death and created the possibility of a mass shooting with high casualties.

Last December, Remington filed a motion to dismiss the case, citing its immunity under the PLCAA. In her decision today, Judge Bellis stated that the federal protection of gun companies does not invalidate the “legal sufficiency” of the complaint against them. She also rejected their claim that the PLCAA nullifies her court’s jurisdiction. Gun control advocates and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton have slammed the law for shielding gun companies from responsibility for the misuse of their products.

The case’s plaintiffs include the family members of several victims, including the mother of Victoria Soto, a young teacher killed while protecting her students, as well as the Barden and Hockley families, who have traveled the country urging stricter gun control legislation. Clinton hailed today’s ruling in an email statement, praising “these families, who are bravely fighting to hold irresponsible gunmakers accountable for their actions.”

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