The families of the people killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting have reached a historic $73 million dollar settlement in a decade-long lawsuit against the maker of the AR-15 weapon the gunman used.
“Twenty children were killed and six adults and a subset of families have been working over 10 years to get some accountability by the manufacturer,” said Michael Rodriguez, professor at UCLA School of Public Health. “Guns, even though they're a consumer product, are not monitored or regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. In fact, in 2005 Congress provided them immunity from being liable from any civil suits.”
That immunity from the Lawful Commerce Act is why settlements from civil suits against gun manufacturers have been hard to come by in the past, making this settlement a big breakthrough, according to professor of law Carl Tobias at the University of Richmond.
“There was an exception in Connecticut law passed by their legislature, which made Remington come within the exception,” Tobias said.
The exception in the Connecticut statute has to do with how the weapon was advertised.
“They used marketing practices that were directed to try to again provide this persona, almost to sort of elevate this macho image," Rodriguez said. "And there was also some concerns about marketing to people who may sort of be vulnerable potentially with mental health problems.”
“What's interesting is a number of other states have rather similar statutes,” Tobias said.
Tobias says this case sends a message to gun manufacturers and their insurance companies of the importance of responsible marketing practices.
“What it also shows is that in the absence of stronger national and local regulations that there's also other tools like litigation that can that that can make this industry responsible,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez says civil suits are one of the few tools Americans have to hold manufacturers responsible.