The Supreme Court said Tuesday that it would allow a lawsuit against the gunmaker Remington filed by a survivor and the families of the victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre to proceed. The defendants say the company should be held liable for its role in marketing one of the assault-style rifles used in the shooting.
The court said it had rejected an appeal from Remington, which had argued that it should be shielded from such a suit under a 2005 federal law designed to prevent gun manufacturers from being held liable in most cases when their guns are used in crimes.
A divided Connecticut Supreme Court had said in a 4-3 ruling in March that Remington could be sued for how it marketed the Bushmaster XM15-E2S rifle — one of the guns that Adam Lanza used to kill 20 children and six educators at the school in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012. In its ruling, the state Supreme Court cited an exception to the 2005 law, called the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.
That ruling had overturned a lower court ruling that said the suit should be voided.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on Tuesday allows the state's high court ruling to stand, meaning the lawsuit can go forward.
The plaintiffs include a survivor and relatives of nine people killed at Sandy Hook. They have argued that the Bushmaster XM15-E2S rifle, an AR-15-style rifle, should not be used by the general public and that Remington had illegally marketed it by glorifying its use to civilians.
“The families are grateful that the Supreme Court upheld precedent and denied Remington’s latest attempt to avoid accountability," Joshua Koskoff, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said in a statement. "We are ready to resume discovery and proceed towards trial in order to shed light on Remington’s profit-driven strategy to expand the AR-15 market and court high-risk users at the expense of Americans’ safety.”
Koskoff had told the state Supreme Court during arguments in November 2017 that the Bushmaster rifle and other AR-15-style rifles were designed as military killing machines and should never have been sold to the public. Military-style rifles have been used in many other mass shootings, including in Las Vegas in October 2017 when 58 people were killed and hundreds more injured.
Remington, which has received the backing of National Rifle Association and other prominent gun lobbying groups regarding the suit, has denied any wrongdoing.
The case has been closely watched by gun rights supporters and gun control advocates across the country, with many pointing to it as having the potential to affect other cases accusing gunmakers of being responsible for mass shootings.
Remington filed for bankruptcy in 2018 amid years of slumping sales and legal and financial pressure over the Sandy Hook school shooting.