A Connecticut judge ruled Thursday a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the gun used in the deadly 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown can move forward, Reuters reported. The maker of the AR-15 assault weapon, Bushmaster Firearms, had requested the suit be thrown out, citing a 2005 federal law that blocked charges against gunmakers whose products were used in crimes.
The lawsuit was filed with the Bridgeport Superior Court on behalf of nine families of victims who were killed. The gunman in the shooting at the elementary school, Adam Lanza, killed 20 children and six school staff members before turning the gun on himself. He also fatally shot his mother before the rampage.
The case recently was launched back into the spotlight following Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ interview last week with the New York Daily News editorial board, during which the Vermont senator said he opposed letting the families of gun violence victims sue gunmakers. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the front-runner in the Democratic presidential race, quickly pounced and condemned her rival for prioritizing “gun manufacturers’ rights over the parents of the children killed at Sandy Hook.”
The topic is sure to come up during Thursday night’s Democratic presidential debate in Brooklyn, New York.
Hillary Clinton issues statement on the CT Sandy Hook lawsuit moving forward. Expect HRC to bring this up tonight. pic.twitter.com/ztBaDpFK2w
— Dan Merica (@danmericaCNN) April 14, 2016
Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis said Thursday in her ruling the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act cannot stop the case from going forward.
“The families look forward to continuing their fight in court,” said attorney Josh Koskoff, who is representing the families.
The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified financial damages, argues the AR-15 used in the violence never should have been sold to civilians in the first place. The gun is a lightweight semi-automatic assault rifle.
“We did our homework on the weapon. It will be clear to anybody who hears the history of this weapon that it was designed specifically for the military and selling it to civilians is reckless,” Koskoff told the Hartford Courant in February. “It was basically designed to kill lots of people, and the tragedy that occurred at Sandy Hook is exactly what it was designed for to kill people during an assault.”
The mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School further fueled a debate over gun control, prompting calls for semi-automatic assault rifles to be banned. Dannel Malloy, Connecticut’s Democratic governor, signed some of the country’s strictest gun legislation following the shooting, banning more than 100 military-style rifles. A law also adopted in the state limits ammunition magazines to 10 bullets.