Relatives of nine victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre have reached a $73 million settlement with Remington, concluding a lawsuit that saw a gun manufacturer for the first time face potential liability following a mass shooting in the United States.
The landmark victory comes after a protracted legal battle over how Remington marketed its Bushmaster AR-15-style rifle, which was used in the December 2012 killings of 20 first-graders and six educators in Newtown, Connecticut. The gunman fatally shot his mother before the elementary school rampage, then killed himself.
“Today marks an inflection point,” Veronique de la Rosa, the mother of six-year-old victim Noah Pozner, said at a press conference Tuesday. “Today is a day of accountability for an industry that has thus far enjoyed operating with immunity and impunity, and for this I am grateful.”
In their lawsuit against Remington, which has since filed for bankruptcy, families of the victims argued that the gun maker irresponsibly marketed the weapon to at-risk young men such as the Sandy Hook shooter through product placement in violent video games.
Remington, based in Madison, North Carolina, has denied the allegations. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment from NBC News on Tuesday.
Attorney for the families, Joshua Koskoff, began Tuesday's press conference by displaying photos of the victims and described details about the final days of their lives: the Hanukkah candles that Noah proudly lit for the first time; the favorite diner breakfast that fellow first-grader Jesse Lewis loved to eat; the Christmas music that teacher Victoria Soto would listen to on her drive into work.
“These families would pay everything, give it all back, just for one minute” more with their loved ones, Koskoff said.
The path to a settlement was complicated, with the lawsuit making its way through the state Supreme Court after Remington argued it should be shielded under a federal law designed to prevent gun manufacturers from being held liable for crimes in which their guns were used. In 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court said it would allow the suit to go forward.
Last July, attorneys for Remington offered nearly $33 million to settle the suit. At the time, Koskoff praised Remington’s insurers for their offer, even though the families did not accept.
Then in September, Remington subpoenaed school records of children and educators killed in the massacre.
Attorneys for the families immediately moved to seal those records.
“We have no explanation for why Remington subpoenaed the Newtown Public School District to obtain the kindergarten and first-grade academic, attendance and disciplinary records of these five schoolchildren,” Koskoff said, The Connecticut Post reported. “The records cannot possibly excuse Remington’s egregious marketing conduct, or be of any assistance in estimating the catastrophic damages in this case. The only relevant part of their attendance records is that they were at their desks on December 14, 2012.”
Sandy Hook marks 9 years since elementary school shootingDec. 15, 202101:39
Parents and other relatives of the victims spoke of their hopes Tuesday that this settlement would prevent other families from experiencing the pain that they had by setting a new precedent for the firearm industry.
"Our legal system has given us some justice today," said Francine Wheeler, mother of first-grader Benjamin Wheeler.
"True justice would be our 15-year-old, healthy and standing next to us right now, but Benny will never be 15," she added. "He will be six forever, because he is gone forever. Today is about what is right and what is wrong."