The families of Sandy Hook shooting victims won another victory in court this week, when a judge ordered that gun manufacturers must begin turning over their internal marketing documents to the victims' lawyers.
The ruling Thursday by Connecticut Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis, came on the heels of an April ruling in which she denied the gun manufacturers' attempts to have the suit thrown out of court.
The plaintiffs in the case, except one who survived the shooting, lost family members during the December 2012 shooting of 20 children and six adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
The Sandy Hook families allege that Bushmaster, a division of Remington Arms, and its co-defendants, "knew about the dangers of their product and yet continued to market them,” Adam Winkler, a professor at the UCLA School of Law and an expert on gun rights, told The Guardian newspaper.
Winkler said the Sandy Hook lawsuit strategy is similar to that of major lawsuits against tobacco companies, which sought to hold the companies liable for the deaths their products caused. Internal tobacco industry documents played a key role in these cases, revealing how big tobacco knew for years that their products were dangerous, yet they deliberately misled the public about the health risks of smoking.
In the Sandy Hook suit, the plaintiffs seek to show that Bushmaster "knew or should have known that the sale of assault rifles, including the XM15-E2S in the civilian market posed an unreasonable and egregious risk of physical injury to others."
The weapon used in the Sandy Hook massacre was a Bushmaster XM15-E2S, sometimes referred to as an AR-15.
The Newtown families argue that the way AR-15 guns are marketed to the public deliberately targets young men seeking affirmation of their masculinity.
At every turn in the lawsuit, gun manufacturers have argued that they're protected from liability under a U.S. law designed to shield gunmakers from responsibility for the injuries their products cause.
Until now, the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act has been used by gun manufacturers and retailers to successfully have lawsuits against them thrown out of court.
Lawyers for the Sandy Hook gun manufacturers and their co-defendants are still fighting to have the case dismissed, and have a motion to strike all the claims in the case. Provided the case against Bushmaster and Remington proceeds, it is scheduled for trial on April 3, 2018.