Families who lost a loved one in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre reached a $73 million settlement with Remington Arms. The company manufactured the rifle that the shooter used to kill 20 first graders and six educators in 2012. This is the first time that a gun manufacturer had to face potential liability following a mass shooting in the United States.
What happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School?
Sandy Hook Elementary School is located in Newtown, Connecticut. The massacre has since been called the the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, and Newtown Shootings of 2012. It was one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history. When it was over, two people were injured and 28 people were dead.
Adam Lanza was a 20-year-old who lived with his mother Nancy Lanza. She was the one who legally purchased an AR-15 that was kept in their home (along with other guns). Adam Lanza shot his mother four times with a .22 calibre rifle, killing her.
After that, he destroyed his computer’s hard drive, gathered up the AR-15, two semiautomatic pistols, and a shotgun, and several hundred rounds of ammunition stored in high-capacity magazines. He drove his mother’s car to Sandy Hook Elementary School.
According to Britannica, Adam Lanza shot his way through the school’s locked security door. He was confronted by Sandy Hook principal Dawn Hochsprung and school psychologist Mary Serhlach. Lanza killed both of the women and entered the school. Teachers could hear the sounds of gunfire, which were broadcast through the school’s public address system. They made efforts to protect their students.
Lanza entered the classroom of teacher Lauren Rousseau and killed her and 14 children. He then entered a second classroom where first-grade teacher Victoria Soto had hidden her students in a closet. She tried to redirect Lanza, saying that her students were in the auditorium on the other side of the school. Lanza killed her and six students who tried to flee. He also killed Anne Marie Murphy, a special education aide, and behavioral therapist Rachel D’Avino. Two other Sandy Hook staff members were injured.
Adam Lanza fired 154 rounds in less than five minutes, claiming 26 lives. Investigators determined that Lanza used the AR-15 as his primary weapon, and took his own life with a handgun.
What is Remington?
Remington is a company that manufactures and sells guns. According to its website, the company was started in 1816 by Eliphalet Remington II. In 1856, the company became E. Remington & Sons when all three of Eliphalet’s sons joined the business. In 1871, Remington Ammunition Works was established. It produced metallic, centerfire ammunition for pistols, rifles and shotguns.
In 1906, Remington produced the first American Auto-loading shotgun, a John Browning design which was later called the Model 11. They marketed this shotgun with a drawing of two bears in a boat, one of which is holding a shotgun and getting ready to shoot some ducks. Why am I mentioning this advertisement? I’ll get to that soon.
In 1918, Remington introduced the Model 51 autoloading pistol, the company’s first new handgun in 28 years. In 1950, they introduced the Model 870, a pump-action shotgun that was featured in an advertisement with some duck decoys. Over the years. Remington sold ammunition that worked with their various guns.
The New York Times reported in July of 2020 that The Remington Arms Company filed for bankruptcy protection after years of litigation and a loss of investors took a heavy toll on its finances. According to The New York Times, Remington’s troubles date back to 2007, when the company was acquired by Cereberus Capital Management (a private equity firm).
After the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre, families of the victims sued Remington. According to The New York Times, this caused Remington to take on debt from paying “hefty legal fees and from buying out investors who wanted to divest after a wave of negative public settlement toward the company”.
Remington’s bankruptcy filing in 2018 allowed it to shed $775 million of its $950 million in debt. Ownership of Remington was transferred to some of its former creditors. Remington ended up filing a second bankruptcy claim in 2020. At the time, the Sandy Hook families had concerns that Remington would use the bankruptcy process to escape any financial liability stemming from their lawsuit.
Outcome of the Court Case
The civil court case was brought by the Sandy Hook families against Remington in 2015. The Chicago Sun Times reported that the case was brought by the families who lost a loved on in the Sandy Hook massacre, and a survivor of it.
The focus of the case was how Remington marketed the Bushmaster XM15-E2S rifle. The families and the survivor made an interesting argument about how that rifle was marketed. According to The Chicago Sun Times:
…The civil court case in Connecticut focused on how the firearm used by the Newtown shooter – a Bushmaster XM15-E2S rifle – was marketed, alleging it targeted younger, at-risk males in marketing and product placement in violent video games. In one of Remington’s ads, it features the rifle against a plain backdrop and the phrase: “Consider Your Man Card Reissued”…The Chicago Sun Times
The Associated Press reported on February 19, 2022, that the families of Sandy Hook agreed to a $73 million lawsuit settlement with gun-maker Remington. The families are shifting their focus to ending firearms advertising with macho, military themes that exploit young men’s insecurities, all in the hopes of preventing more mass shootings. The families said that Remington used those kinds of ads to promote its AR-15 style rifles.
According to North Jersey.com, the lawsuit was blocked by a law that protected gun manufacturers from being held accountable. From the article:
…The families had been blocked from pursuing legal action against the gun manufacturers by the 2005 federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which was signed by President George W. Bush a year after a gun-maker and weapons dealer agreed pay $2.5 million to the families of people killed in sniper attacks in 2001 in Washington, Maryland, and Virginia…North Jersey.com
The Sandy Hook families got around this problem by pointing out a Connecticut state consumer protection law that prohibited marketing of any product that encouraged illegal behavior. In my opinion, this law was fitting because Adam Lanza was not a legal gun holder, and because he used his mother’s rifle to kill people.
North Jersey.com reported: Such consumer laws could now be an opening for future lawsuits against gunmakers, experts say. New York already had a state consumer law like Connecticut’s. A similar bill has been introduced in California. Lawmakers in New Jersey and several other states are considering similar measures.
The Connecticut Post reported on September 7, 2021, the following:
…In 2016, a state Superior Court judge agreed that Remington was protected under a federal law that shields the gun industry from most liability when its products are misused. In 2019, the state Supreme Court ruled the families had grounds to pursue an unlawful marketing claim under Connecticut’s Unfair Trade Practices Act. Later that year, the Supreme Court sent the case back to trial court by refusing to review it…The Connecticut Post
In short, this landmark settlement has pointed out that some states have laws that will hold gun manufacturers accountable when a shooter uses their product to murder people. I find this fascinating because the result could force gun manufacturers to think very hard about how they market their weapons. This case could be the precedent for taking away the gun manufacturers proverbial “get out of jail free card” that previously allowed them to avoid a lawsuit.
Sandy Hook Families Reach Settlement with Remington is a post written by Jen Thorpe on Book of Jen and is not allowed to be copied to other sites.
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