St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Remington settlement sends message that victims have rights, too


St. Louis Post-Dispatch



For decades, gun industry defenders have advanced the myth that guns don’t kill people. Sure, a gun sitting in a locked case doesn’t kill anyone, but a human brandishing one or more military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines can kill far more people, far quicker than if that person didn’t have a gun at all. Guns enable people to kill people in America by margins unmatched in any other developed nation. A major lawsuit settlement Tuesday could help put a dent in those margins.

The families of adults and children slain in 2012 at Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary School reached a $73 million settlement with representatives of arms maker Remington, which manufactured the military-style weaponry used to kill 20 first-graders and six adults. The sickest lingering aftereffect of the killings a full decade later involves the way gun makers and the National Rifle Association persist in turning this tragedy and the parents’ suffering into a celebration of gun rights.

Which is why Tuesday’s settlement is so significant. Gun victims are finally standing up for their rights instead of leaving unchallenged the way mass-killing devices are marketed as a statement of manhood and Second Amendment preservation. Gun makers’ mission is not about the Constitution. It’s about maximizing profits. And they do it by advertising guns using macho, military imagery and associating assault rifles with patriotism and the defense of liberty.

Tuesday’s settlement shot a big hole through that nonsense. The families who lost loved ones in the 2012 massacre were limited by federal law from holding Remington liable for the bloodshed its product caused. But nine families tried a different tactic: challenging the way Remington appealed to insecure young men with advertisements like, “Consider your man card reissued.”

The lawsuit led to challenges all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which refused to hear the case and tacitly affirmed that the lawsuit’s contention was legitimate. Gun industry representatives argued that there was no proof such marketing campaigns had any bearing on the deranged shooter’s actions. It was the shooter’s mother who purchased the weapons, and he killed her before going on the school rampage. So it’s a fair question whether marketing had any influence on the tragedy.

Nevertheless, the families who filed the lawsuit made a strong enough case that Remington’s insurers felt it best to settle than to risk fighting it out in court. After the Sandy Hook shooting, Remington was inundated with lawsuits and filed for bankruptcy. Predictably, the gun industry is trying to argue that since insurers made the settlement decision, this outcome doesn’t represent any kind of concession by firearms makers themselves.

Of course not. The industry remains just as irrational as ever in its defense of mass-killing machines and the mass marketing behind them. If more lawsuits succeed like this one, though, gun makers can soon consider their bankruptcy cards reissued.

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St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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