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

Lester Mason
March 15, 2019

The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled Thursday that families of the 26 victims murdered in the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school shooting can sue the gun manufacturer who made the rifle used by the shooter.

It marks another case involving a 2005 federal law that generally shields gun makers and manufacturers from liability for crimes committed involving their products. Gun rights supporters bashed the decision as judicial activism and overreach.

The ruling was a divided 4-3 decision that allowed families of the victims to proceed with a wrongful death suit that was originally filed in 2015 but thrown out by a lower court in 2016. The majority said that while most of the lawsuit's claims were barred by the federal law, Remington could still be sued for alleged wrongful marketing under CT law.

Several lawsuits over mass shootings in other states have been rejected because of the federal law.

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

The families' lawsuit can now bypass the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which Congress passed in 2005, making it impossible for survivors of gun violence to hold manufacturers accountable for selling weapons to shooters.

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. He then killed himself.

It also paves the way for the families to subpoena internal documents on how the gun companies have marketed the AR-15, which has become the weapon of choice for mass shooters.

Nicole Hockley said Thursday that Remington and other gun makers need to stop gearing their advertising toward troubled young men. "We wanted our day in court".

The families had tried to advance the case on a relatively novel argument in gun litigation based on the legal doctrine of negligent entrustment, an argument historically used when someone lends a vehicle to a high-risk driver who then causes an accident.

The dissent was written by Chief Justice Richard A. Robinson, who stressed that the PLCAA preempts the claims based on advertisement.

"Because the distastefulness of a federal law does not diminish its preemptive effect, I would affirm the judgment of the trial court striking the plaintiff's complaint in its entirety", Robinson wrote.

Leading gun control advocates such as Everytown for Gun Safety and the Brady Campaign applauded the ruling.

Legal experts said the outcome could have broad ramifications.

The legal theory that the court rejected, which aimed to take advantage of another exception to the PLCAA's protection, was potentially much more threatening to the gun industry.

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.

The lawsuit seeks undisclosed damages.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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