Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis said that a 2005 federal law protecting gun manufacturers from lawsuits does not prevent lawyers for the victims’ families from arguing that the semi-automatic rifle is a military weapon that should not have been sold to civilians.
Adam Lanza, 20, killed 20 first-grade students and six educators on Dec. 14, 2012 with a Bushmaster XM15-E2S rifle that his mother had bought legally. Lanza killed his mother Nancy Lanza at their Newtown home with a different gun before going to the school a few miles away, and then killed himself as police arrived.
The families of nine children and adults killed at the Newtown school and a teacher who survived the attack are suing Remington Arms, the parent company of Bushmaster Firearms, the gun maker that produced the weapon used in the slayings.
Lawyers for Remington Arms sought to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that the federal law shields a gun maker from most lawsuits over criminal use of their products. They said Congress passed the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act after determining such lawsuits were an abuse of the legal system.
Judge Bellis ruled Thursday that argument would be best made in a motion later in the process and is not grounds to dismiss the lawsuit.
Lawyers for Remington did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.
Joshua Koskoff, a lawyer for the families, argues there is an exception in the federal law that allows litigation against companies that know, or should know, that their weapons are likely to be used in a way that risks injury to others.
“We are thrilled that the gun companies’ motion to dismiss was denied,” he said. “The families look forward to continuing their fight in court.”
Debate over the 2005 law has resurfaced in this year’s presidential campaign. In last night’s Democratic presidential debate, Hillary Clinton slammed Bernie Sanders for supporting the law, which gave immunity to gun makers but not other industries.