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.”
She added that she was confining her analysis to the jurisdiction issue, focusing on that topic rather than potential challenges to “the legal sufficiency” of the lawsuit, and said such arguments would need to be made in a different motion.
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.
Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton released a statement praising it as “an important step forward for these families, who are bravely fighting to hold irresponsible gunmakers accountable for their actions.”
This came not long before Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) were scheduled to meet for a presidential debate in the Democratic primary contest.
As this campaign has continued, Clinton and Sanders have sparred over guns — in particular, Sanders’s vote to grant gun makers and sellers immunity. Sanders was criticized recently for comments he made about the Sandy Hook lawsuit. In an interview with the New York Daily News, Sanders said he did not think victims of gun crimes should be able to sue gun manufacturers.
Last month, two of the parents involved in the lawsuit wrote an op-ed decrying what they said was Sanders’s “support of companies that recklessly market and profit from the sale of combat weapons to civilians.”
This story has been updated.