Families of nine Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre victims reached a $73 million settlement with the manufacturer of the gun used in the deadly 2012 shooting on Tuesday.
The agreement comes after several years of litigation with Remington Arms, the manufacturer of the Bushmaster AR-15-style rifle used to kill 20 first graders and six teachers at the Newtown, Connecticut elementary school.
Nicole Hockley, whose son Dylan was among the first-graders killed, described the settlement as a “landmark, historic victory.” Hockley is also the co-founder and CEO of the Sandy Hook Promise Foundation, a gun violence prevention non-profit founded by Sandy Hook victims’ families. “The gun industry has been shielded from accountability for their role in these tragedies,” she said at a news conference on Tuesday. “That has changed today.”
Remington’s four insurers have agreed to pay the $73 million, despite the fact that the company has declared bankruptcy twice in the last two years.
According to Joshua Koskoff, the lead attorney representing the families, as part of the settlement, Remington agreed to allow the families to release documents obtained during the lawsuit, including ones that show how the gunmaker marketed the weapon.
Hockley stated that the families “can’t wait” to release the thousands of internal documents obtained, which “paint a picture of a company that lost its way choosing more aggressive marketing campaigns for profit, with no thought to the impact.”
“It wasn’t about money from the start,” Koskoff explained. “It was about learning about these decisions and getting answers.”
“The linchpin of this settlement is that it allows these families to share the information about what they learned,” he added.
Last year, Remington offered the victims’ families $33 million in a possible settlement. In August, Koskoff stated that the offer was “grossly inadequate.”
The lawsuit put to the test the scope of a federal law that shields gun manufacturers from lawsuits arising from crimes committed with their products. The Connecticut civil court case hinged on how Remington marketed the rifle, with the gunmaker accused of targeting young, at-risk men through product placement in violent video games and advertisements, including one that used the phrase “Consider Your Man Card Reissued.”
According to the lawsuit, the victims’ families claimed Remington violated Connecticut’s unfair trade practices law when it “knowingly marketed and promoted the Bushmaster XM15-E2S rifle for use in assaults against human beings.”
“The marketing to young men essentially glorifies violence and military use of the weapon,” Koskoff previously stated.
Remington’s lawyers denied the allegations in court, arguing that there was no evidence linking Remington’s marketing to the shooting. The case was denied by the United States Supreme Court after it had already taken several twists and turns, including bouncing from a state superior court to the state Supreme Court and back.
The case was closely followed by gun manufacturers as well as gun legislation experts, who said the suit could shatter long-held beliefs about gun manufacturers’ ability to resist lawsuits related to criminal use of guns they manufacture. Experts have also said that the litigation could provide a rare look into how a gun manufacturer markets its products, shifting national conversations about gun violence to the marketing of guns.
Koskoff said federal law “gave the gun industry the perception that nothing they did could ever be subject to scrutiny, nothing they did could ever lead to liability.” He said the lawsuit’s outcome “shattered the perception.”
“The immunity protecting the gun industry is not bulletproof,” he said.