The families of nine victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School have agreed to a $US73 million ($102 million) settlement of a lawsuit against the maker of the rifle used to kill 20 first graders and six educators in 2012.
Remington, which made the Bushmaster AR-15-style rifle used in the massacre, also agreed to allow the families to release numerous documents they obtained during the lawsuit, including ones showing how it marketed the weapon, the families said on Tuesday.
The families and a survivor of the shooting sued Remington in 2015, saying the company should have never sold such a dangerous weapon to the public. They said their focus was on preventing future mass shootings.
“Today is not about honouring our son Benjamin. Today is about how and why Ben died,” said Francine Wheeler, whose six-year-old son was among the dead.
“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 15-year-old healthy and here with us.”
Messages seeking comment were left for Remington and its lawyers on Tuesday (US time).
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.”
Remington had argued there was no evidence to establish that its marketing had anything to do with the shooting.
The company also had said the lawsuit should have been dismissed because of a federal law that gives broad immunity to the gun industry.
But the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled Remington could be sued under state law for its marketing of the rifle.
The gun maker appealed to the US Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case.
The case was watched by gun control advocates, gun rights supporters and gun manufacturers across the US because it had the potential to provide a roadmap for victims of other mass shootings to circumvent federal law and sue the makers of firearms.
Remington, one of the nation’s oldest gun makers founded in 1816, filed for bankruptcy for a second time in 2020 and its assets were later sold off to several companies. The manufacturer was weighed down by lawsuits and retail sales restrictions following the school shooting.
Four insurers for the now-bankrupt company agreed to pay the full amount of coverage available, totalling $73 million, the plaintiffs said.
“This victory should serve as a wake-up 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,” said Josh Koskoff, a lawyer for the plaintiffs.
Adam Lanza, the 20-year-old gunman in the Sandy Hook shooting, used the rifle made by Remington and legally owned by his mother to kill the children and educators on December 14, 2012, after having killed his mother at their Newtown home. He then used a handgun to kill himself as police arrived.
Lanza’s severe and deteriorating mental health problems, his preoccupation with violence and access to his mother’s weapons “proved a recipe for mass murder”, according to Connecticut’s child advocate.