A judge in Connecticut on Thursday rejected a request from gun manufacturers and sellers to dismiss a lawsuit filed by relatives of those killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in 2012, saying the lawsuit could go forward.
Connecticut Superior Court Judge Barbara N. Bellis wrote that she could not grant the request to dismiss the suit based on a federal shield law that protects gun makers and sellers, a decision hailed by the families who filed the suit and praised by advocates for stronger gun laws as a victory.
Bellis said she was responding to the relatively narrow question of whether the court had jurisdiction to consider the claim and ultimately concluded “that any immunity [the shield law] may provide does not implicate this court’s subject matter jurisdiction.”
In the lawsuit, which comes from the estates of nine of the 26 people killed in the massacre and a survivor of the attack, attorneys say they are attempting to to hold gun manufacturers and sellers accountable.
These attorneys argue in their filings that the companies are selling weapons used by the military and law enforcement to civilians “unfit to operate these weapons,” which, in turn, “enables an individual in possession of the weapon to inflict unparalleled civilian carnage.”
Manufacturers and sellers responded by urging the court to dismiss the complaint, saying that although the shooting was undeniably tragic, the lawsuit isn’t allowed under the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, the shield law passed by Congress in 2005 after numerous lawsuits against gun manufacturers.
Bellis said that given the arguments made by the gun manufacturers and sellers regarding this law, another legal avenue — a motion to strike, rather than dismiss — “would be the proper procedural vehicle.”
She also dismissed an argument that the estates should not be able to bring claims under the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act, saying the question of whether this act covers the allegations “is not a ground on which the case can be dismissed” for jurisdictional reasons.
Attorneys for the Remington Arms Co. and other companies named in the lawsuit did not immediately respond to requests for comments on Thursday, and no additional filings were available by Thursday night.
A status conference in the case is scheduled for next week.
“We are thrilled that the gun companies’ motion to dismiss was denied,” Josh Koskoff, an attorney for the families, said in a statement. “The families look forward to continuing their fight in court.”
After Bellis announced her decision, Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said it offered “an important win” for the families involved.
“They deserve their day in court and we are pleased that at least for now they’ll get it,” Gross said in a statement.