Sandy Hook Families Beat Gunmaker Immunity in $73 Million Settlement with Remington

Firearms maker Remington went all the way to the Supreme Court pleading for federal immunity. Now its insurers must pay

The families of five children and four adults killed in the Sandy Hook massacre settled with gunmaker Remington for $73 million on Tuesday. Remington Arms is the now-bankrupt North Carolina company that produced the Bushmaster AR-15-style rifle used in the December 2012 murder of 20 children and six faculty members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut.

The the nine families and one survivor brought a wrongful death suit against Remington in 2014, claiming the company should never have sold such a dangerous weapon to the public. Although the shooter fired 154 rounds in less than five minutes, Remington has denied the allegations in the suit. Remington was also thought to be protected from such legal action by the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which offers gunmakers broad immunity from civil action.

However, the case in Connecticut focused on how Remington marketed the weapon, rather than the weapon itself, the Associated Press reports.

Lawyers for the families argued that Remington went out of its way to reach at-risk young men like the Sandy Hook shooter, who killed his mother before the slaughter, and killed himself after. The attorneys contended that Remington used product placement in violent video games, as well as showcasing a Remington ad for the weapon—a Bushmaster XM15-E2S—in which the rifle is set against a plain backdrop, along with the phrase, “Consider Your Man Card Reissued.”

In addition to the payment, Remington agreed to let the families release documents obtained during the suit, including ones that detail how the arms manufacture marketed its weapon.

Remington had maintained that there was no evidence to link its marketing strategy to the slayings. It also argued that the suit should have been dismissed due to the federal immunity law. The Connecticut Supreme Court disagreed, ruling that the company could be sued under state law for the way it marketed the Bushmaster. Remington appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case in 2019.

At the time, the National Rifle Association called the lawsuit “company-killing,” and it was right. Hammered by lawsuits and gun sales restrictions in the aftermath of the massacre, Remington filed for bankruptcy twice in less than two years. Four insurers for the company have agreed to pay the families.
Francine Wheeler, whose six-year-old son was murdered at Sandy Hook, said on Tuesday, “Today is not about honoring our son Benjamin. Today is about how and why Ben died. It is about what is right and what is wrong. Our legal system has given us some justice today, but David and I will never have true justice. True justice would be our fifteen-year-old healthy and here with us.”

A lawyer for the families, Josh Koskoff, added, “This victory should serve as a wakeup call not only to the gun industry, but also the insurance and banking companies that prop it up. For the gun industry, it’s time to stop recklessly marketing all guns to all people for all uses and instead ask how marketing can lower risk rather than court it.”

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