A $73 million settlement has been reached in a lawsuit stemming from the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. In an attempt to “prevent the next Sandy Hook”, the families of victims killed in the 2012 shooting sued Remington Arms Co., the manufacturer of the murder weapon. Alleging that the company prioritized profit over public safety in their marketing and selling of assault rifles to civilians, the lawsuit served as a wake-up call to the gun industry and sent a clear message: join the fight against gun violence or pay the price of being complicit.
Guns have become a massive part of modern-day American culture. According to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in June 202, four-in-ten U.S. adults say they live in a household with a gun, including 30% who say they personally own one. Increased gun ownership has transformed into a dangerous reality, with 106 Americans dying per day from gun violence. About half of Americans (48%) see gun violence as a very big problem in the country today, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in April 2021. Another 24% of adults say gun violence is a moderately big problem. Similarly, roughly half of Americans (53%) favor stricter gun laws, according to the Center’s April 2021 survey.
The critique on gun violence and the calls for stricter gun laws are a response to the many mass shootings Americans have suffered in recent history. Among the younger generations, certain shootings are considered major historical events. In a survey done by Pew Research Center, Gen X and Millennials both noted the Columbine and Orlando shootings when asked to list the 10 historical events that they believe have had the greatest impact on American society. Millennials also list the Sandy Hook Elementary School.
On December 14, 2012, 20-year-old Adam Lanza murdered 20 first-graders and six school employees before killing himself at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton Connecticut. He was armed with two semi-automatic pistols, one semi-automatic rifle, and multiple rounds of ammunition. He obtained the weapons from his mother, Nancy Lanza, who he also murdered. Nancy was a gun enthusiast who legally obtained and registered a large collection of weapons and would regularly take her sons to shooting ranges. Knowing he had access to these weapons, Adam Lanza planned and carried out the Sandy Hook massacre.
The AR-15-style Bushmaster used by Adam Lanza in the shooting was manufactured, marketed and sold by Remington Arms Co. Remington’s marketing strategies were targeted in the lawsuit brought against the company by the families of the victims of Sandy Hook. The marketing is said to invoke the violence of combat and utilize slogans like “Consider your man card reissued”; which was just enough to inspire young men like Lanza to premeditate and carry out a violent attack.
The lawsuit is the first of its kind. Setting an important precedent, this legal win for gun control advocates provides a potential legal road map for justice following mass shootings. It proves that gun companies can and will be held accountable for their role in perpetuating the issue of gun violence by recklessly marketing their weapons to increase profit with a blatant disregard for the possible violent repercussions. Furthermore, it puts the insurers that prop up the gun industry on notice: no one walks away unscathed when it comes to gun violence.
In a recent statement, President Joe Biden urged state and local lawmakers, lawyers and survivors of gun violence to “pursue efforts to replicate the success of the Sandy Hook families”. Soon, gun manufacturers and dealers will surely be under fire like never before. Although there is no blanket solution to gun violence, the success of the lawsuit brought against Remington is a massive step in the right direction.