USA: Relatives of Sandy Hook victims receive millions in compensation – politics

Remington is one of the best-known gun manufacturers in the USA – and soon to be one of the most disreputable. The company has just reached a settlement with members of the shooting spree at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut. In December 2012, a 20-year-old shot dead 20 first graders and six teachers at the elementary school. He also killed his mother and himself. He fired most of the shots from a Remington subsidiary Bushmaster’s AR-15 model semi-automatic weapon that his mother owned: 156 rounds in five minutes. He hit most of the victims with multiple shots.

The killing spree shook the country of gun enthusiasts. In an emotional speech, President Barack Obama vowed to tighten the regulations. The plans never made it through Congress.

Now, the families of nine of the child victims and four of the adult victims may have found another lever to impose limits on the arms industry. With the settlement, you will receive compensation totaling $73 million, as announced on Tuesday. It is likely to be the highest severance payment ever made by a US arms manufacturer.

“Ruthless Marketing Tactics That Targeted Vulnerable and Violent Young Men”

Remington does not accept responsibility for the settlement. She also went bankrupt last year, and the severance pay is now being paid by her four insurance companies. It was important that the amount was high, said Josh Koskoff, the families’ lawyer: “It had to be an amount that would draw the attention of this industry, the insurance companies and the banks.”

The relatives undoubtedly succeeded. They filed their lawsuit against Remington back in 2014. After litigation up to the Connecticut Supreme Court, Remington made an offer last summer that, at $33 million, was less than half the current settlement.

The second part of the comparison is at least as important. Relatives are allowed to publish thousands of internal Remington documents to which they have fought for access. The filings are said to show that the industry was trying to increase gun sales in a problematic way, according to Nicole Hockley, the mother of one of the six-year-olds who died. “The company used unscrupulous marketing tactics that targeted vulnerable and violent young men,” Hockley said. “The marketing was aimed at those who want to appear more fearsome, powerful and manly with their AR-15.”

USA: Attorney Josh Koskoff shows examples of Bushmaster's advertisements for their AR-15 variant during a press conference.

Attorney Josh Koskoff shows examples of Bushmaster’s advertising for its AR-15 variant during a press conference.

(Photo: Seth Wenig/AP)

Attorney Koskoff described one of the promotions as a request from Remington subsidiary Bushmaster to report the e-mail addresses of friends who were “not men” because they did not own a Bushmaster gun.

It was just such marketing tactics that allowed the relatives to crack the arms manufacturer’s defenses. In fact, a federal law dating back to George W. Bush protects the industry from lawsuits by family members of gun victims. However, by using a Connecticut consumer protection law and reprimanding the companies for their marketing, those involved in the Sandy Hook shooting spree found a way to circumvent those protections.

Implementing tightening remains difficult

Now they want to pillory the arms industry and prove that they knew exactly what they were doing with their aggressive advertising practices – analogous to the successful campaign against the tobacco industry in the 1990s. The extent to which this blueprint can now be transferred to the arms industry remains open for the time being. Only in a few states, such as New York and California, is the legal situation comparable to that in Connecticut.

Political tightening is still difficult to implement. The state of Maryland, for example, has banned many semi-automatic weapons, civilian versions of assault rifles like the AR-15. These guns are some of the most popular guns in the US, and many can be fitted with magazines that hold up to 100 rounds.

However, a lawsuit against Maryland’s ban is pending before the Supreme Court, which he is likely to rule on in the coming months. Several other states this week asked the Supreme Court to overturn the law because it violated the US Constitution’s right to own guns. And in states dominated by the Republicans, the laws are not tightened anyway, but rather relaxed.

President Joe Biden Tuesday night called the comparison with Remington “historic” and a start of work to “hold arms manufacturers accountable for producing weapons of war and promoting them in an irresponsible manner.” He urged Congress to take action. However, his Democrats make no move to touch the gun regulations in a mid-election year.

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