Judge OKs Sandy Hook Families’ Gun Company Lawsuits Just Before Democrats’ Debate

Families of the Sandy Hook victims got the OK to sue gun companies when a Connecticut judge ruled against a motion by the gun makers to dismiss the lawsuits.

The families’ lawsuits are actually aimed at three separate gun companies who, together, make the Bushmaster AR-15 rifle, says Michelle Gorman of Newsweek. The AR-15 was the weapon Adam Lanza used in the December 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. Ten devastated Newton, Connecticut, families are launching the lawsuits.

On December 14, 2012, Lanza killed 26 people in the tragedy. The casualties included 20 first-graders and six adult staff members. The slaughter took less than five minutes. Lanza killed his mother before going to the school. He then shot himself in the head afterward.

Judge oks sandy hook families lawsuits [Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty]Gun companies have enjoyed what seems to many a practical immunity from lawsuits for a decade. In 2005, Federal legislation was passed through a law known as PLCAA, or the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA). The law protects gun manufacturers against civil lawsuits. The companies cited PLCAA in their arguments. Judge Barbara Bellis ruled against the motion anyway.

The motion denial came just hours before the Democratic debate in Brooklyn, New York. Guns are a hot button issue, including in the presidential primary. Hillary Clinton may hope Bernie Sanders will lose ground with voters if she continues to pound away at Sanders’ record on the gun issue.

Sanders voted against the Brady bill in 1993 as a member of the House. So did about one quarter of House Democrats. He did vote for an assault weapons ban and regulation of high-capacity magazines in 1994. But he voted for PLCAA in 2005. Senator Clinton voted against it. The Washington Post‘s Philip Bump wrote an article in October 2015 detailing the candidates’ votes.

Judge oks sandy hook families lawsuits [Photo by Scott Olsen/Getty Images]Though Sanders often voted in favor of gun lobby bills, he did support an amendment after Sandy Hook that would have introduced background checks at gun shows. A filibuster killed the introduction of the amendment, though.

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Clinton uses the gun violence issue, and Sanders’ voting record, against him regularly. According to S.E. Cupp of the Daily News, however, Sanders is not putting the interests of the gun companies ahead of victims of gun crimes and their survivors. PLCAA, says Cupp, only protects gun companies against lawsuits as a result of unlawful use of their guns, much the way car manufacturers are not sued by victims of drunk drivers or other unlawful misuse of their product. Cupp also points out the legislation was co-authored by a Democrat, got “yes” votes from 14 Democratic Senators, and that 34 states have enacted similar laws.

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PLCAA does not protect gun companies from “intentional violations of federal or state law, negligence or product liability,” Cupp writes. Gun makers are also not the only ones who enjoy laws limiting liability, as Clinton claims. Online service and content providers, like Comcast, and YouTube are protected against suits by victims of online defamation, says PolitiFact. Vaccine manufacturers are protected, too, but they also have set up a compensation program for victims. The gun companies have no such programs.

Sanders also has repeatedly said he is in favor of allowing gun manufacturers to be sued when they sell their guns to the “wrong people,” and know when they’re doing it.

Sanders isn’t likely to get much support from the Sandy Hook families, however. Inquisitr‘s Val Powell wrote about Erica Smegielski, the daughter of slain Sandy Hook principal Dawn Hochsprung.

“This is a man who has prided himself on standing up to the big guys on behalf of the little guys for years, but he is not doing that for victims of gun violence,” Smegielski said of Sanders.

Whether Clinton asks Sanders again where he stands on the gun issue, and whether Sanders simply repeats what he’s already said, the Sandy Hook families will be listening as closely as anyone else.

[Photo by Christopher Capozziello/Getty Images]