FILE PHOTO: Remington firearms sit on a rack at the National Rifle Association's (NRA) annual meeting, in Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S., April 28, 2019. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston/File Photo
Remington is accused of having emphasised the military capabilities of the semi-automatic rifle used in the Sandy Hook massacre © Reuters

The US Supreme Court has refused to block a landmark lawsuit brought by families of Sandy Hook victims against Remington Arms, the gunmaker whose assault-style rifle was used in the 2012 massacre.

The court on Tuesday declined to hear an appeal by Remington against a Connecticut court decision that said a federal law granting gunmakers some immunity from litigation could not shield the company in this case.

Family members of victims of the Sandy Hook school shooting, in which 20 children and seven adults were killed by Adam Lanza, brought the lawsuit in 2014 alleging that Remington’s marketing of the AR-15-type rifle had inspired the killer.

The case could provide a template for victims of US mass shootings to seek compensation from gunmakers despite a 2005 law that shields them from responsibility for the misuse of their weapons.

“The families are grateful that the Supreme Court upheld precedent and denied Remington’s latest attempt to avoid accountability,” Josh Koskoff, an attorney for the families, said in a statement.

“We are ready to resume discovery and proceed towards trial in order to shed light on Remington’s profit-driven strategy to expand the AR-15 market and court high-risk users at the expense of Americans’ safety,” he added.

A spokeswoman for Remington did not immediately return a message seeking comment. The company is privately held, but shares in American Outdoor, a rival formerly known as Smith & Wesson, fell 2 per cent in morning trading.

The lawsuit has sought damages from Remington despite a broad federal exemption from liability that Congress gave gunmakers under the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.

The families have sued under a Connecticut state law that allows personal injury lawsuits for unfair trade practices.

Remington’s promotional materials had emphasised the military capabilities of the Bushmaster XM15-E2S semi-automatic rifle, a type of AR-15 used by Lanza, thereby encouraging his behaviour, the families alleged.

“Despite evidence that rifles like the XM15-E2S have become the weapon of choice for mass shooters, [Remington’s] advertising continued to exploit the fantasy of an all-conquering lone gunman,” the families said in a submission to the Supreme Court last month.

The case was initially blocked by a Connecticut district court, which found the families did not have standing to bring the lawsuit, before the state supreme court gave it the go-ahead in a 4-3 decision in March.

Remington appealed against the Connecticut Supreme Court decision, arguing that it would have dramatic consequences on gunmakers.

“The impact on the firearms industry of even a few courts following the Connecticut Supreme Court would be profound,” the gunmaker said in its appeal to the US Supreme Court in August.

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