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Connecticut judge throws out Sandy Hook lawsuit against gun manufacturers

A 2013 photo shows a Connecticut State Police detective holding up a model of the AR-15 rifle. (Jessica Hill/AP)
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A Connecticut judge on Friday agreed to dismiss a lawsuit filed against gun manufacturers and sellers by relatives of people killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in 2012, saying that the suit was not allowed under a federal shield law.

The manufacturers and sellers had argued in court filings that while the shooting was tragic, the lawsuit against them was not allowed under the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, the shield law passed by Congress in 2005 after numerous lawsuits against gun manufacturers.

Connecticut Superior Court Judge Barbara N. Bellis, in a 54-page memorandum of the decision, wrote that the arguments presented by the families “did not satisfy the negligent entrustment exception” to the federal shield law.

This exception covers selling a weapon “when the seller knows, or reasonably should know” that the buyer “is likely to, and does, use the product in a manner involving unreasonable risk of physical injury to the person or others.”

Bellis also determined that the families could not use the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act to press their case, because that act required them to outline a commercial way they were connected to the manufacturers.

What the lawsuit against gun manufacturers entailed

Earlier this year, she had declined to dismiss the lawsuit, focusing on jurisdictional issues in that decision rather than “the legal sufficiency” of the suit against Remington Arms Co., which is based in Madison, N.C., and other companies.

She had noted at the time that given the specific arguments being made, a motion to strike would have been the procedural way to approach it. On Friday, she granted such a motion.

“Remington is pleased with the court’s decision today to strike the plaintiff’s complaint,” James B. Vogts, an attorney for the company, said in a statement read over the phone to a reporter.

An attorney for the families said that this was not the final stage for the case, saying that they planned to appeal in court.

“While the families are obviously disappointed with the judge’s decision, this is not the end of the fight,” Josh Koskoff, the attorney, said in a statement. “We will appeal this decision immediately and continue our work to help prevent the next Sandy Hook from happening.”

The unusual multimilliondollar gun store verdict in Wisconsin

In her ruling Friday, Bellis describes the AR-15, the gun used in the Sandy Hook massacre, as being “designed for military use and engineered to deliver maximum carnage with extreme efficiency.”

According to a state investigation, Adam Lanza used an AR-15 to kill 26 people — 20 of them children — in the school before killing himself with a handgun. It also found that he first used a long rifle to shoot and kill his mother, Nancy, in their home.

Estates of nine of the people killed at the school and a survivor of the attack filed a lawsuit against Remington and other companies, saying that providing such guns to the public poses “an unreasonable and egregious risk.” In response, Remington’s attorneys had argued that the lawsuit fell “squarely within the immunity” afforded by the federal shield law.

Further reading:

Understanding the federal shield law for gun manufacturers