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Gun manufacturer Remington Arms has agreed to pay $73 million to families of victims killed in a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012.
Remington, which manufactured the rifle used in the shooting, also agreed to release documents showing how it marketed the weapon.
The settlement marks a rare victory for shooting victims and their families, as gun makers are typically shielded from liability when acts of violence are carried out with their products. “Today is a day of accountability for an industry that has thus far enjoyed operating with immunity and impunity,” said Veronique De La Rosa, whose 6-year-old son Noah was killed in the shooting.
What the lawsuit against Remington alleged
On Dec. 14, 2012, 20-year-old Adam Lanza used a Bushmaster AR-15 rifle to kill 20 first-grade student and six educators at the Connecticut elementary school. Nine families and one survivor of the Sandy Hook shooting sued Remington in 2015, accusing them of marketing the AR-15 to troubled individuals even though the weapon has “little utility for legitimate civilian purposes.”
“Time and again, mentally unstable individuals and criminals have acquired an AR-15 with ease, and they have unleashed the rifle’s lethal power into our streets, our malls, our places of worship, and our schools,” the families’ complaint (pdf) read. They accused Remington of marketing the AR-15 as a combat weapon “used for the purpose of waging war and killing human beings.”
The complaint kicked off a six-year legal battle to hold Remington accountable for selling the military-grade weapon for civilian use. Eventually the civil case made its way up to both the US Supreme Court, which in 2019 dismissed Remington’s attempt to block it and allowed the lawsuit to move forward in Connecticut, where it was originally filed.
Liability for US gun makers is rare
The settlement marks the first time a US gun manufacturer has been held liable for a mass shooting. A 2005 federal law has typically protected firearms manufacturers and dealers from being held liable when crimes have been committed with their products, but in this case the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled Remington could be sued under a state consumer protection law regarding its marketing tactics.
The attorney for the Sandy Hook victims’ families said he hoped the decision marks a turning point for the gun industry.
Remington has filed for bankruptcy twice since the Sandy Hook tragedy, once in 2018 and again in 2020. It’s since sold off its assets to several different companies. Insurers for Remington will pay out the settlement agreed to by the Sandy Hook families, according to the plaintiff’s lawyers. Remington did not immediately comment on the settlement.
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