In an extraordinary ruling that will send shockwaves of fear among gun makers, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that gun maker Remington can be sued over the rifle used to kill 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.
Justices issued a 4-3 decision that reinstated a wrongful death lawsuit and overturned a lower court ruling that the lawsuit was prohibited by a 2005 federal law that shields gun manufacturers from liability when their products are used in crimes, the Associated Press reports.
According to the AP, the plaintiffs include a survivor and relatives of nine people killed in the massacre. They argue the AR-15-style rifle used by shooter Adam Lanza is too dangerous for the public and Remington glorified the weapon in marketing it to young people.
Lanza, 20, shot his way into the locked school in Newtown on Dec. 14, 2012, and killed 20 first-graders and six educators with a Bushmaster XM15-E2S rifle, similar to an AR-15. He shot his mother to death in their Newtown home beforehand, and killed himself as police arrived at the school.
Connecticut’s child advocate said Lanza’s severe and deteriorating mental health problems, his preoccupation with violence and access to his mother’s legal weapons “proved a recipe for mass murder.”
Joshua Koskoff, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, told the state Supreme Court during arguments in November 2017 the Bushmaster rifle and other AR-15-style rifles were designed as military killing machines and should never have been sold to the public.
“The families’ goal has always been to shed light on Remington’s calculated and profit-driven strategy to expand the AR-15 market and court high-risk users, all at the expense of Americans’ safety,” Koskoff said Thursday. “Today’s decision is a critical step toward achieving that goal.”
Military-style rifles have been used in many other mass shootings, including in Las Vegas in October 2017 when 58 people were killed and hundreds more injured.
The case was watched by gun rights supporters and gun control advocates across the country as one that could affect other cases accusing gun-makers of being responsible for mass shootings. Several right-wing groups, including the National Rifle Association, submitted briefs to the court.
Remington, based in Madison, North Carolina, filed for bankruptcy reorganization last year amid years of slumping sales and legal and financial pressure over the Sandy Hook school massacre.