HARTFORD, CT (WFSB/AP) — On Thursday, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that gun maker Remington can be sued for making the Bushmaster rifle used to kill 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.
Justices were split on the question, but on Thursday morning the court ruled 4-3 that Remington can be sued over marketing of the rifle used in the Newtown school shooting.
Attorneys for Remington argued federal laws shield gun makers from lawsuits when their products are used in crimes.
For the most part, the majority opinion agreed with the lower court’s ruling in that case.
The wrongful death lawsuit against Remington was originally filed by families of nine victims and one survivor of the school shooting.
“I can’t say I’m excited by the ruling. I wish it was never here, but what we’ve said from the outset is all we wanted is our day in court," said Ian Hockley, the parent of a Sandy Hook shooting victim.
Those families asked to be allowed to sue the company for making the Bushmaster rifle that was used in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary school.
Twenty children and six educators died during that shooting in December of 2012.
"This is not where we wanted to be but, that being said, I'll spend the rest of my life in this particular avenue in one way shape or form," said Bill Sherlach.
Bill Sherlach, who's wife Mary died in the school school, is part of the lawsuit. Mary was the school psychologist.
In 2016, a lower court had dismissed the lawsuit saying that Remington could not be sued because federal laws protect gun makers from liability when their products are used in crimes.
The Connecticut Supreme Court did agree with the lower courts ruling that dismissed the families claims challenging the federal law, protecting gun companies from lawsuits.
However, it ruled it would allow the wrongful death lawsuit to move forward based on a state law regarding unfair trade practices.
The ruling said, in part “If the defendants’ marketing materials did in fact inspire or intensify the massacre, then there are no more direct victims than these plaintiffs...That is to say, if these plaintiffs cannot test the legality of the defendants’ advertisements...then no one can.”
Remington has argued they're not responsible for what happened back in December of 2012, saying Lanza's mother bought the gun legally.
However, families have claimed the AR-15 style rifle was not just too dangerous for the public, but that Remington glorified the weapon through its marketing.
Remington has not yet commented on the ruling.
A statement was released on behalf of the Sandy Hook families, saying "The families are grateful that our state’s Supreme Court has rejected the gun industry’s bid for complete immunity, not only from the consequences of their reckless conduct but also from the truth-seeking discovery process. 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. Today’s decision is a critical step toward achieving that goal.”
In a statement on Thursday, Newtown Action Alliance said "Thank you to the Connecticut Supreme Court for ruling in favor of the Sandy Hook families to allow them to continue to pursue their wrongful death lawsuit against Remington, the maker of the AR-15 that was used to murder 20 children & 6 educators."
U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, and U.S. Representative Jahana Hayes issued a statement as well on Thursday saying "We applaud this ruling as another step towards justice for the victims of gun violence. For far too long gun makers have been allowed to produce and market products that kill thousands each year with no liability for their actions,” said Blumenthal, Murphy, and Hayes. “Today's ruling allows the victims of these horrific acts of violence to have their day in court, and hold gun manufacturers accountable. To clarify this issue once and for all Congress should pass the Equal Access to Justice for Victims of Gun Violence Act."
Attorney General William Tong released a statement, saying "I am thankful that the families who have suffered unconscionable losses can have their day in court and can hopefully find some justice. The military-type gun designed to inflict maximum lethality used by Adam Lanza to kill innocent children and adults on that tragic day should not have been marketed to civilians. Our consumer laws were designed to protect consumers from harmful commercial activities of the type alleged in the complaint."
Read the full court ruling here.
Read the dissent on the ruling here.