Sandy Hook Families' Gun Lawsuit Can Proceed

Suit can go to trial, Connecticut's top court decides
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 14, 2019 12:50 PM CDT
Sandy Hook Lawsuit Against Gun Companies Can Go to Trial
Ian Hockley, father of Dylan Hockley, one of the children killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting, addresses the media after a hearing before the state Supreme Court in Hartford, Conn., Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017.   (Cloe Poisson/The Courant via AP)

The families of the Sandy Hook massacre victims can sue the companies that manufactured and sold the semiautomatic rifle the shooter used—a ruling the New York Times calls "a major blow to the firearms industry." In a 4-3 ruling Thursday, the Connecticut Supreme Court decided to let the lawsuit proceed to trial, a move that could ultimately force gun companies to hand over internal communications they've tried hard to keep private. The high court agreed in part with a lower court's decision to dismiss certain claims (ones that challenge a 2005 federal law largely shielding gun makers and sellers from lawsuits after one of their products is used in a crime) but found that, due to a state law about unfair trade practices, the wrongful marketing claim can move forward, USA Today reports.

"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," the justices wrote in the majority opinion. The lawsuit, filed in 2014 by relatives of nine victims who died as well as a teacher who survived being shot, argues that the marketing for the AR-15-style Bushmaster used in the 2012 attack was meant to appeal to troubled young men; they cited taglines such as one promising, "Consider your man card reissued." They also noted that the gun was touted in ads as "the ultimate combat weapons system" and marketed to appeal to military-obsessed men who sought to do violence. Twenty-six people, including 20 first-graders, were killed in the Newtown, Conn. attack. (More on the lawsuit's arguments here.)

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