A Connecticut judge on Thursday rejected a motion to dismiss a lawsuit against the maker of a gun used in a 2012 elementary-school shooting that killed 20 children and six adults, the Hartford Courant reports.
Under the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), gun-makers are not liable for crimes committed with their products.
However, in a blow to the maker of the Bushmaster AR-15 semiautomatic rifle, Judge Barbara Bellis ruled that law wasn’t enough to have the case thrown out at this early stage, according to the Courant.
The case was brought by families of nine children killed in the December 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The 20-year-old shooter, Adam Lanza, used a Bushmaster AR-16 and killed himself following the massacre.
The families are suing for wrongful death, and they’re accusing the gunmaker of selling a so-called civilian weapon that’s designed and marketed for combat.
The judge’s ruling is a potential blow to other gun manufacturers, which generally have broad immunity from wrongful-death litigation under the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.
“We are thrilled that the gun companies’ motion to dismiss was denied. The families look forward to continuing their fight in court,” Josh Koskoff, the plaintiffs’ lead attorney, said in a statement, per Newsweek.
The suit’s defendants include Remington Arms Co., the manufacturer of the Bushmaster AR-15 that was used in the shooting; Camfour Inc., a gun distributor; and Riverview Gun Sales, a now defunct gun shop in Connecticut where the rifle was purchased by the shooter’s mother in 2010, according to Newsweek.
The PLCAA has been a point of contention the Democratic race.
Bernie Sanders (I-VT) supported the law when he was in Congress. Sanders has defended his decision, citing his Vermont constituents, who are in favor of protecting local gun stores from legal action. As a senator from New York, Hillary Clinton voted against the law, according to Newsweek.
Clinton’s campaign released a statement praising the judge’s decision:
Today’s ruling in Connecticut is an important step forward for these families, who are bravely fighting to hold irresponsible gunmakers accountable for their actions. They deserve their day in court. Period. Unfortunately, PLCAA – the sweeping immunity law that protects gun manufacturers and dealers – still remains a major obstacle for these families and others seeking to hold these gun companies accountable. That is why, as president, I would lead the charge to repeal this law. Nothing can make these families whole again after losing their children and loved ones in Sandy Hook, but they deserve a president who will fight for them, and I am committed to doing just that.