New York (AFP) - Families of victims in one of America's worst mass shootings pushed again Tuesday to hold gun manufacturers responsible for the 2012 massacre that killed 20 small children and six adults.
The killings at the Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut -- which claimed the lives of mostly children aged between six and seven in less than five minutes shortly before Christmas -- shocked America and reignited the national debate about gun control.
But moves to even modestly tighten gun control laws floundered and a lawsuit brought by some families of the victims against the manufacturers of the semi-automatic gun used in the crime was thrown out by a judge last year.
On Tuesday, those families were back in court, asking Connecticut's highest state court to reverse the decision, looking to hold the makers of the AR-15 Bushmaster liable for wrongful death and negligence.
Judges on the Connecticut Supreme Court heard arguments from lawyers representing the families, gun manufacturer Remington, the Connecticut shop that sold the weapon to the shooter's mother and Massachusetts-based arms distributor Camfour.
The families say 20-year-old killer Adam Lanza would never have been able to carry out his 264-second attack if he had not had access to a high-capacity weapon which had been "specifically engineered" for military use in combat.
US corporations, argued the plaintiffs, have a duty to look out for public safety.
"What we have here is the conduct of a corporation that thought it was above the law and still thinks its above the law," said lawyer Joshua Koskoff.
In dismissing the suit last October, a judge cited federal law protecting gun manufacturers from litigation if their products are used during a crime.
"The law needs to be applied dispassionately," said lawyer James Vogts, representing Remington on Tuesday.
Millions of Americans all across the country own the same type of weapon for legitimate hunting, target practice and home defense purposes, he said.
"The manufacturer and the sellers of the firearms used by the criminal that day are not legally responsible," Vogts said.