A lawsuit against the maker of an assault rifle used in the Sandy Hook shooting massacre in the US has been allowed to proceed by a Connecticut court.
The lawsuit is being brought to bear by family members of 9 of the 26 people killed in the shooting which occurred in 2012.
They allege that the manufacturers of the AR-15 rifle used in the shooting are liable for damages caused by the weapon.
Gun manufacturers Bushmaster Firearms and Remington claimed that the lawsuit was invalid and that they were not responsible for the actions of the massacre’s perpetrator Adam Lanza.
They pointed to a 2005 federal law called the ‘Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act’ (PLCAA) which protects firearms manufacturers and dealers from liability.
Nonetheless, the judge allowed the case to proceed, scheduling a trial date for April 3 2018. This date would be preceded by a significant ‘discovery phase’ where the plaintiff’s lawyers would have access to internal documents of the two companies.
The crux of the case revolves around the whether the two companies deliberately marketed their guns to young men, whom the plaintiffs allege are prone to violence.
This would exploit an exception within the 2005 legislation for “negligent entrustment” whereby guns are sold to someone with a high likelihood of misusing them.
Whether the case proceeds to eventual trial in 2018 is still unclear, as lawyers representing the two accused gun manufacturers have filed new motions to have the case stuck out, for which hearings will begin next month.
Nonetheless, should the case continue to move ahead, it would cause a significant shake-up in the industry and could pave the way for significant gun control reform imposed by the legislative, rather than the executive branch of the US government.
Even if it should fail, the PLCAA protecting the gun manufacturers could itself be under threat.
US presidential favourite Hillary Clinton has been quoted as saying that if elected she would “lead the charge” to have this law repealed.
Should the PLCAA be repealed it could open the floodgates to many more lawsuits against these companies in which they would have a much harder time defending their positions.