Nine Sandy Hook families settle with gunmaker Remington over school massacre

A 2013 photo held up at a press conference shows victims of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - Remington Arms will pay US$73 million (S$98 million) to the families of five adults and four children killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, the families said on Tuesday (Feb 15), the first time a gunmaker has been held liable for a mass shooting in the United States.

Twenty students and six adults were killed on Dec 14, 2012, in Newtown, Connecticut by gunman Adam Lanza, who used a Remington Bushmaster AR-15 rifle to shoot his way into the Sandy Hook Elementary School after killing his mother at home.

Remington Arms will pay US$73 million to the families and release all the discovery and disposition material to the public. The settlement will be paid through insurance policies.

The nine families sued in 2014 and spent years in the courts trying to hold Remington liable, despite a US law that protects gunmakers and dealers from most civil litigation.

"They had the energy, drive and motivation to do one thing. That was to do whatever they could so that other families... would not have to go through the pain and loss that they have," said Josh Koskoff, an attorney for the families.

The Sandy Hook families found a way around that legal protection for gunmakers by claiming that Remington's marketing of firearms contributed to the massacre.

Other gun control advocates have since been encouraged to follow that strategy, including New Jersey's attorney-general who is investigating Smith & Wesson's marketing.

Mexico filed a US lawsuit last year seeking US$10 billion from several gunmakers, accusing them of marketing their weapons to the country's underworld.

New York last year enacted a law that allows firearm sellers, manufacturers and distributors to be sued for creating a "public nuisance" that endangers the public's safety and health. Gun manufacturers have challenged the law in court.

Gun groups have also been using the courts and state legislatures to expand gun rights and have scored victories at the Supreme Court in 2008 and 2010 that established an individual's right to keep a gun at home for self-defence.

A 2013 photo shows family members of Sandy Hook victims at a news conference in Newtown, Connecticut. PHOTO: AFP

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