A major victory is being declared by the families of Sandy Hook victims after a Connecticut judge ruled against gun manufacturer Bushmaster Firearms in a pending lawsuit.
The ruling dismissed a motion by Bushmaster to throw out the lawsuit, which Judge Barbara Bellis denied. However, the company is still protected by the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), which shields them from liability if one of their guns is used in a crime to kill people, CNN reported.
Bushmaster can still appeal and file a new motion to dismiss the lawsuit. However, the ruling has been called a victory because the courts usually favor firearm companies.
“We are thrilled that the gun companies’ motion to dismiss was denied,” said attorney Josh Koskoff. “The families look forward to continuing their fight in court.”
However, Bellis determined that PLCAA could be still be used to attack the claims being made by Sandy Hook families in their lawsuit. Regardless, she is not willing to let the case disappear quite so early in the process and hasn’t determined that the federal law can be used to block the lawsuit. In fact, the next step in the case may just be for Bushmaster to continue claiming immunity.
According to Newsweek, the lawsuit names manufacturer Remington Arms Co., distributor Camfour Inc., and the now-defunct dealer who sold the weapon to the gunman’s mother, Riverview Gun Sales. Remington is the parent company of Bushmaster.
The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, took place on December 14, 2012, when Adam Lanza shot his mother to death and then killed 20 children and six adults with a Bushmaster AR-15. He then killed himself.
The lawsuit includes 10 families of victims, either killed or injured, when Lanza, 20, opened fire on the school.
The lawsuit claims that Bushmaster marketed a semiautomatic rifle — similar to a fully automatic military rifle — in a “militaristic fashion” considered appealing by young men inclined to violence and some of whom intended to “inflict mass causalities,” according to the Hartford Courant.
They claim Bushmaster knew (or should’ve) that their weapon came with a high risk of injury or death to others and negligently sold weapons only suitable for the military or law enforcement.
The lawsuit refers to the company’s advertising copy and lines like “the uncompromising choice when you demand a rifle as mission-adaptable as you are” and “Forces of opposition, bow down. You are single-handedly outnumbered.”
The real victory in the decision against Bushmaster is the fact that the plaintiffs can now move on to “discovery,” which may allow them to get their hands on internal documents.
On the other side of the issue, gun rights advocates say that despite their military appearance, AR-style firearms aren’t more dangerous than a semi-automatic rifle. The differences are cosmetic.
The issue of whether manufacturers should be held liable for mass casualties, and the PLCAA, has been hotly debated on the presidential campaign trail, particularly between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
Clinton voted against the act, while Sanders voted for it and continues to defend his position and his motivation to protect smaller gun shops from legal action. Despite his support for PLCAA, he’s earned a D-minus rating from the National Rifle Association.
He came under fire earlier this month for continuing to state this controversial opinion. In an interview, he was asked whether victims of gun crimes — like in Sandy Hook — should be able to sue the manufacturer.
“No, I don’t. But I do believe that gun manufacturers and gun dealers should be able to be sued when they should know that guns are going into the hands of wrong people.”
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