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Newtown shooting families can sue firearms maker, says Connecticut high court

FILE - In this Dec. 14, 2012, file photo, officials stand outside of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., where gunman Adam Lanza opened fire inside school killing 20 first-graders and six educators at the school, and killed himself as police arrived. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

Connecticut’s Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the manufacturer of the Bushmaster AR-15 rifle can be sued and potentially held liable in connection with the 2012 mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

The groundbreaking decision overturned a lower-court ruling barring the lawsuit, which was brought by the estates of nine victims killed by Adam Lanza, who was armed with the high-powered rifle during his assault on the school. Bushmaster is owned by Remington.

The families argued, among other things, that the rifle's manufacturer and distributor negligently allowed and encouraged civilians to use a weapon suitable only for military and law enforcement use.

The firearms company had convinced a lower court that a federal law enacted in 2005 limited the liability of firearms manufacturers and dealers, essentially preempting wrongful death suits in state and federal courts.

The Connecticut high court disagreed. It also said the suit, which seeks unspecified damages for each death, could go forward under that state's Unfair Trade Practices Law.

Twenty first-grade children and six adults were killed and two others wounded in the attack on Dec. 14, 2012. The Bushmaster that Lanza used had been sold to his mother, according to court documents.

“The number of lives lost in those 264 seconds was made possible by the shooter’s weapon of choice,” the plaintiffs said in their lawsuit. “Plaintiffs seek nothing more and nothing less than accountability” for Bushmaster’s choice to “continue profiting” from selling and marketing the weapon for civilian use, the suit said.

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