The Case Against the Sandy Hook Gunmakers Gets a Legal Lifeline

A judge says protections for gun companies can’t quash a suit brought by the families of massacre victims.

<a href="">Dave Collins</a>/AP

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

This morning, a Connecticut judge denied a motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought against the manufacturers of the Bushmaster assault rifle by several families of victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre. Bridgeport Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis’ decision comes as a surprise since similar suits have been thrown out under the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), a federal law that grants arms manufacturers broad immunity from liability claims.

The Sandy Hook families allege that the companies that made the AR-15-style Bushmaster rifle used in the attack “know that civilians are unfit to operate AR-15s, and yet continue selling the Bushmaster XM15-E2S to the civilian market, disregarding the unreasonable risks that the weapon poses.” The plaintiffs further allege that Bushmaster Firearms, Remington Arms, and the Freedom Group should have known that selling these rifles to the civilians would pose “an unreasonable and egregious risk” of injury or death and created the possibility of a mass shooting with high casualties.

Last December, Remington filed a motion to dismiss the case, citing its immunity under the PLCAA. In her decision today, Judge Bellis stated that the federal protection of gun companies does not invalidate the “legal sufficiency” of the complaint against them. She also rejected their claim that the PLCAA nullifies her court’s jurisdiction. Gun control advocates and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton have slammed the law for shielding gun companies from responsibility for the misuse of their products.

The case’s plaintiffs include the family members of several victims, including the mother of Victoria Soto, a young teacher killed while protecting her students, as well as the Barden and Hockley families, who have traveled the country urging stricter gun control legislation. Clinton hailed today’s ruling in an email statement, praising “these families, who are bravely fighting to hold irresponsible gunmakers accountable for their actions.”


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend