BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (UPI) — A Connecticut judge on Thursday denied a motion from firearm manufacturers to have a lawsuit brought by the families of the Sandy Hook massacre dismissed.

Judge Barbara Bellis denied the request in a Bridgeport courtroom Thursday, handing a victory to the families of the 20 children shot to death during the December 2012 rampage.

The families have been pushing legal action to hold the gun companies indirectly responsible for the shootings — a claim the manufacturers believe isn’t a burden they should carry.

The defendants in the civil case are all makers of the Bushmaster XM15-E2S, which is the model the Sandy Hook gunman used to kill 20 first-grade children.

Part of the reason the families are trying to hold gun manufacturers liable is because, they argue, the makers are marketing a military weapon to civilian consumers — who, the suit states, are “unfit” to operate the assault rifle.

“We are thrilled that the gun companies’ motion to dismiss was denied,” a lawyer for the families said. “The families look forward to continuing their fight in court.”

Attorneys for the gun manufacturers did not immediately respond to the ruling.

The federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act generally shields firearm makers from lawsuits like the one in Connecticut, but Bellis ruled that while it’s possible the law might ultimately side with the manufacturers, it does not constitute sufficient grounds to have the case dismissed this early in the legal process.

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