The victims of the Sandy Hook mass shooting will be able to pursue their state-court lawsuit against gun maker Remington after the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to hear the case.
On Dec. 14, 2012, Adam Lanza, 20, shot dead 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The victims included 20 children ages 6 and 7 and six adults. Lanza then killed himself.
Lanza used a Bushmaster AR-15-style rifle produced by Remington. The family sued Remington and the company argued that a federal law that Congress passed in 2005, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, shielded gun manufacturers from liability.
But the federal law carries an exception: if a gun maker "knowingly violated a state or federal statute applicable to the sale or marketing of the product."
The Connecticut Supreme Court in March decided 4 to 3 that the lawsuit could go forward.
The Hartford Courant had reported that the top Connecticut court said the families should have the opportunity to prove that Remington violated state trade-practices law by marketing a weapon designed for military use to civilians.
Nancy Lanza, Adam Lanza's mother, purchased the AR-15 around her son's 18th birthday, the Courant reported. Adam Lanza killed his mother before he attacked the school.
A lower state court in 2016 had decided that the plaintiff's lawsuit had fallen within the immunity provided by the federal act. The Connecticut Supreme Court decision reversed that lower court.
The U.S. Supreme Court decision didn't say why the court declined to hear the case.
Reports said that the Supreme Court decision also could enable other victims of gun crime to sue gun makers.
A columnist for Reuters, Alison Frankel, in August suggested that both sides have reasoned arguments.
She noted that in a podcast last August Larry Keene of the National Shooting Sports Foundation argued that gun makers are no more responsible for the criminal misuse of their products than, say, a car maker when a drunk driver kills someone in a car accident.
She said that the Connecticut Supreme Court would say that it was simply interpreting the law that Congress wrote. And that's what lawyers for the victims have argued, she said.
Remington filed under Chapter 11 of U.S. bankruptcy law in March 2018. It had been owned by the private-equity firm Cerberus, which in the bankruptcy ceded control of the company to creditors including JP Morgan Asset Management.
The publicly traded arms companies are lower in Tuesday trading: American Outdoor Brands (AOBC) - Get Report of Springfield, Mass., is off 4.7% at $7.77, Sturm Ruger, (RGR) - Get Report Southport, Conn., fell 2.3% to $44.08, and the Anoka, Minn., ammunition producer Vista Outdoor (VSTO) - Get Report gave up 0.6% to $9.84.