When Adam Lanza shot and killed 20 first-graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, many hoped it would bring about long overdue gun control reform. As the fifth anniversary of the massacre approaches, precious little progress has been made and two horrific mass shootings have claimed 58 lives in Las Vegas and 26 in Sunderland Springs, Texas over a period of less than 40 days.
Now, a lawsuit filed by the families of Sandy Hook victims could potentially change gun control laws, The New York Times reports.
Lawyers representing the families will argue companies that manufacture and sell assault rifles commonly used in mass shootings are culpable for the massacre. The case will be heard in the Connecticut Supreme Court this week.
This lawsuit is notable because the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which Congress passed in 2005, largely protects gun companies from litigation. Citing this legislation, a lower court judge dismissed the lawsuit, according to Fox61. The plaintiffs and their supporters are hopeful that, if the case goes to trial, it will set a precedent for future victims of gun violence.
"It doesn’t make any sense at all that these products are free of liability," David Wheeler, whose 6-year-old son was killed at Sandy Hook, told The New York Times. "It’s not a level playing field. It’s not American capitalistic business practice as we know it. It’s just not right."
The families' lawyers will argue that civilians shouldn't be given access to the AR-15, which was used by Lanza in the Sandy Hook massacre, because it was specifically designed to be used by the military.
In fact, the family of the weapon's designer spoke out in 2016 and echoed similar sentiments: "Our father, Eugene Stoner, designed the AR-15 and subsequent M-16 as a military weapon to give our soldiers an advantage over the AK-47," they told NBC News. "He died long before any mass shootings occurred. But, we do think he would have been horrified and sickened as anyone, if not more by these events."
Although the outcome of the lawsuit will only affect Connecticut, it's garnered the attention of gun safety advocates nationwide and could change how wrongful death suits are handled by lawyers moving forward. Trauma surgeons who treated victims of the mass shootings in San Bernadino, California, and Aurora, Colorado, have also expressed their support, according to The New York Times.
Arguments are scheduled to begin on Tuesday in the Connecticut Supreme Court.