Ruling allows Sandy Hook victims’ families to take gun manufacturer to court

The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the families of victims killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting can sue gun manufacturers and dealers for the attack.

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The decision, reached after 16 months of deliberation, allows families to move forward with one of their specific claims in the case: that Remington, the manufacturer of Bushmaster's version of the AR-15 rifle, used during the massacre, knowingly marketed the gun that people could use to "carry out offensive, military style combat missions against their perceived enemies," CNN reported.

The ruling noted that Connecticut state law prohibits advertising that encourages criminal behavior.

Ten families of the school shooting's 26 victims, 20 of whom were children, are involved in the legal battle. They will still need to prove to a jury that Remington, not the gunman, is liable for the massacre. However, the Connecticut Supreme Court's decision may bolster the families' argument, The News-Times of Danbury reported.

The families’ original complaint, filed in 2014, details some of what they imply is irresponsible marketing on part of Remington.

“The Bushmaster Defendant's 2012 Bushmaster Product Catalog shows soldiers moving on patrol through the jungles, armed with Bushmaster rifles," the lawsuit reads. "Superimposed over the silhouette of a soldier holding his helmet against the backdrop of an American flag is text that reads 'when you need to perform under pressure, Bushmaster delivers.'"

In Thursday’s ruling, the court wrote that the AR-15 is designed to "deliver maximum carnage with extreme efficiency." The decision noted that the AR-15 has repeatedly been chosen by “criminals and mentally unstable individuals” to carry out mass shootings.

In the majority opinion, justices wrote that “it falls to a jury to decide whether the promotional schemes alleged in the present case rise to the level of illegal trade practices and whether fault for the tragedy can be laid at their feet.”

Lawyers for Remington and other gun companies haven’t yet commented on Thursday’s ruling.

Remington attorney James Vogts argued in 2017 that the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act protects companies from this kind of lawsuit, according to CNN.

"No matter how tragic, no matter how much we wish those children and their teachers were not lost, their families had not suffered, the law needs to be applied dispassionately," Vogts said in court. "Under the law ... the manufacturer and the sellers of the firearm used by the criminal that day are not legally responsible for his crimes and the harm that he caused."

Ian Hockley, whose son died in the shooting, told the News-Times, that he doesn’t necessarily view the ruling as a victory.

“I can’t say I’m excited by this ruling, I wish it was never here,” Ian Hockley said. “But what we’ve said from the outset is all we want is our day in court, for the law to be upheld and for a jury to decide our case.”

The entire ruling can be read here.

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