The families of nine victims of a massacre at an elementary school nearly ten years ago in the northeastern U.S. state of Connecticut reached a $73 million settlement Tuesday in a lawsuit against Remington Arms, the maker of the rifle used in the mass killing.
The settlement is a rare instance of a U.S. gunmaker paying damages for bloodshed arising from the criminal use of a firearm.
“While this settlement does not erase the pain of that tragic day, it does begin the necessary work of holding gun manufacturers accountable for manufacturing weapons of war and irresponsibly marketing these firearms,” President Joe Biden said in a statement Tuesday.
Biden encouraged state and local lawmakers, as well as victims of gun violence, to pursue similar actions.
“Together, we can deliver a clear message to gun manufacturers and dealers: they must either change their business models to be part of the solution for the gun violence epidemic, or they will bear the financial cost of their complicity,” the president said.
Twenty first grade students and six educators were killed on December 12, 2012, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut by Adam Lanza, who repeatedly fired a Remington semi-automatic rifle as he made his way through the school.
The families and a survivor of the massacre sued Remington in 2015, maintaining the company should have never sold such a dangerous military-style weapon to the public. They also said they are focused on preventing other mass shootings.
“Today is not about honoring our son Benjamin. Today is about how and why Ben died,” said Francine Wheeler, whose 6-year-old son was killed in the massacre. “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.”
The civil lawsuit in Waterbury Superior Court focused on how the Bushmaster XM15-E2S rifle was marketed, maintaining Remington singled out younger, at-risk males in marketing and in product placements in violent video games.
Remington did not immediately comment on the settlement but the gunmaker had argued there was no evidence that its marketing of the rifle was linked to the killings.
The gun manufacturer also had said the lawsuit should have been dismissed because of a federal law that grants broad immunity to the gun sector. The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled, however, that Remington could be sued under state law over how it marketed the rifle.
Remington appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case.
The gunmaker offered to pay the plaintiffs nearly $33 million in July. In 2018, Remington filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and emerged from it later that year under the control of its creditors. The company filed for bankruptcy again in July 2020 after more retailers restricted gun sales after other school shootings in the U.S.
The plaintiffs said four insurers for Remington agreed to pay the full amount of coverage available, totaling $73 million.
“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,” said Josh Koskoff, a lawyer for the plaintiffs. “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.”
The rifle used by Lanza, who was 20 years old at the time of the shootings, was legally owned by his mother. He used to the rifle to kill his mother at their Newtown home before committing the mass shooting at the school. Lanza killed himself with a handgun as police arrived.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.