On Thursday, a state Superior Court judge denied a motion to dismiss the lawsuit against a firearms manufacturer, distributor, and retailer by families of victims in the Newtown shooting. The three companies involved in the lawsuit had called for the case to be dismissed under a law that protected gun makers from civil lawsuits, such as those brought by victims of gun crimes. Judge Barbara Bellis said while the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) may allow the defense to question the sufficiency of the plaintiff’s claims, it does not merit tossing the lawsuit altogether.
“At this juncture,” Bellis wrote, “the court need not and will not consider the merits of the plaintiffs’ negligent entrustment theory.”
Attorneys for the plaintiffs praised the judge’s decision as a significant win.
“We are thrilled that the gun companies’ motion to dismiss was denied,” attorney Josh Koskoff told The Hartford Courant. “The families look forward to continuing their fight in court.”
The lawsuit names Remington Arms, Camfour Inc., and Riverview Gun Sales. Bushmaster Firearms, which is part of the Remington group, manufactured the AR-15 rifle that Adam Lanza used to kill 20 students and six school staff in 2012. Critics of the lawsuit argue that the PLCAA was enacted specifically to prevent these kinds of lawsuit. Recently, Democratic presidential nominee Bernie Sanders drew some heat from his own party for defending the law, and by extension, gun makers. In an interview with the New York Daily News, Sanders clarified that he did not believe that victims of crimes committed with guns should be able to sue the manufacturer, since the latter did nothing more than produce and sell a legal product.
Other Democrats, such as Senator Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut) and fellow presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, criticized Sanders for his stance.
“I was against it, and he [Sanders] was for it, to give immunity from liability to gunmakers and sellers,” Clinton told a crowd in Brooklyn recently. “We can reverse this, and 92% of Americans and 85% of gun owners agree that we should.”
Gun control advocates would disagree with that statement. Advocates also disagree with the main argument of the Sandy Hook lawsuit—that the companies should be held responsible for making and distributing “military-style” weapons for civilians. Instead, pro-Second Amendment activists say that describing AR-15 rifles as “military-grade assault weapons” is not only inaccurate, but can set a dangerous precedent. As Sanders stated, it makes little sense to allow lawsuits against manufacturers of legal products when those products are misused.
Image courtesy Newtown Police