Sandy Hook Families Settle With Gunmaker Remington

On December 14, 2012, 20 first-graders and six adults lost their lives when gunman Adam Lanza opened fire on students at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Prior to the shooting, Lanza killed his mother; he later ended his own life as police arrived at the scene. The Sandy Hook shooting is the deadliest mass shooting at an elementary school in U.S. history. In February 2022, the families of nine victims won the largest lawsuit against a gun manufacturing company known to date, in a settlement of $73 million dollars.

The families accused Remington Arms, the manufacturers of the AR-15-style gun used in the attack, of intentionally advertising their weapons to troubled teens like Lanza. Although Remington claimed that their marketing never influenced or prompted such actions, the lead counsel for the families Josh Koskoff argued otherwise. Quoting specific phrases used in Remington advertisements like “Consider your man card reissued,” he contended a connection between the phrase and Lanza’s mental health issues. However, groups like the National Shooting Sports Foundation objected to the settlement as they believed Koskoff failed to prove that Remington’s advertisements not only influenced Lanza’s mother to buy the gun, but also caused him to steal it and kill over two dozen individuals.

The settlement also required Remington to release internal company documents to the public that are thousands of pages. The families of the victims contend that the documents could potentially expose extreme marketing tactics targeting young men like the 2012 shooter. This is not the first time that Remington Arms has been at the heart of controversy. The company had previously been mandated to release over 130,000 files in 2016, after the advocacy group Public Justice fought to make the documents public. The documents revealed that engineers had taken note of a design flaw that could allow guns to misfire without the trigger being pulled. 

There are federal laws that work to protect gun companies from litigation; however, states like New York and Connecticut have passed bills that work around such laws. These consumer protection measures prevent gun manufacturing companies from denying payment to families in lawsuits. With states like California and New Jersey working to propose similar measures, there will likely be comparable results to similar lawsuits in the future. This settlement has caused major setbacks for the entire firearms industry. Duncan Griffin ’22, head of the Hotchkiss Republicans, said, “I believe that this case sets a horrible precedent. Remington shouldn’t be held responsible for the massacre just because they supposedly ‘exploited’ men’s insecurities of not being macho. Adam Lanza was a psycho, and [for the public and the court] to claim Remington [influenced] him is ridiculous.”

While the $73 million settlement will only go to the families who signed the lawsuit, it will never erase the tragic loss these families faced on December 14, 2012.