BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A Connecticut state judge has denied a gun company’s motion to dismiss a wrongful death lawsuit filed by families of some of the victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

The lawsuit, which has been the center of a heated debate, alleges the families of the Newtown massacre victims have the right to sue the gun manufacturer of the Bushmaster AR-15 used in the incident because the manufacturers knew the gun was too dangerous for public use.

Freedom Group, the Madison, North Carolina, parent company of AR-15 maker Bushmaster Firearms, says it’s protected by a 2005 federal law that shields gun manufacturers from most lawsuits over criminal use of their products.

Judge Barbara Bellis ruled Thursday that a federal law protecting gun makers from lawsuits does not prevent lawyers for the families of Sandy Hook victims from arguing that the AR-15 is a military weapon and should not have been sold to civilians.

“We are thrilled that the gun companies’ motion to dismiss was denied. The families look forward to continuing their fight in court,” Josh Koskoff, one of the lawyers representing the families, said in a statement Thursday.

The lawsuit recently made its way into the political spotlight, when Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders was criticized for reportedly saying he did not support the plaintiffs in the suit.

“…I do believe that gun manufacturers and gun dealers should be able to be sued when they should know that guns are going into the hands of wrong people,” Sanders said in an interview with the Daily News. “So if somebody walks in and says, ‘I’d like 10,000 rounds of ammunition,’ you know, well, you might be suspicious about that. So I think there are grounds for those suits, but not if you sell me a legal product.”

Bushmaster Firearms has not yet commented on the ruling as of Thursday afternoon.

On Dec. 14, 2012, Adam Lanza, 20, shot and killed 20 first-graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Lanza killed his mother before the school shooting and killed himself afterward.

Last year, more than a dozen victims’ families split $1.5 million under settlements of lawsuits filed against the estate of the gunman’s mother.

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