Nothing can replace the agony of losing a child, but the families of the nine victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012 are seeing a little bit of justice served in a landmark case against gun manufacturing company Remington. The families reached an historic $73 million settlement with Remington today, which marks the first time a gun manufacturer has been held liable for a mass shooting in the United States, according to the Associated Press.
Remington is the maker of the Bushmaster AR-15-style rifle used to kill 20 first grade students and six educators at the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, almost 10 years ago.
“Today is not about honoring our son Benjamin. Today is about how and why Ben died,” said Francine Wheeler, whose 6-year-old son was killed in the shooting, per Associated Press. “It is about what is right and what is wrong. Our legal system has given us some justice today, but David and I will never have true justice. True justice would be our fifteen-year-old healthy and here with us.”
The families and a survivor of the shooting sued Remington in 2015, arguing that the company shouldn’t have sold such a dangerous weapon to the public. The purpose of the lawsuit was to help prevent future mass shootings.
The lawsuit alleged that the firearm used by the shooter was marketed toward younger, at-risk males via marketing and product placement in violent video games. This included an ad of the rifle with the words: “Consider Your Man Card Reissued.”
Remington, which denied the allegations, filed for bankruptcy for a second time in 2020 and its assets were sold off to several companies. The company argued for a dismissal due to a federal law that gives broad immunity to the gun industry, but the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled Remington could be sued under state law over how it marketed the rifle. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case.
“This victory should serve as a wake up call not only to the gun industry, but also the insurance and banking companies that prop it up,” said Josh Koskoff, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, per AP. “For the gun industry, it’s time to stop recklessly marketing all guns to all people for all uses and instead ask how marketing can lower risk rather than court it.”
This historic case comes on the heels of the anniversary of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, which took place four years ago yesterday; 17 people were killed.
To mark the anniversary, Manuel Oliver, father of Parkland shooting victim Joaquin “Guac” Oliver and gun control activist, climbed a construction crane outside the White House to raise awareness about gun violence. After reaching the top, he unfurled a large banner with an image of his son and the words: “45,000 people died from gun violence on your watch.” This is referencing data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which says over 45,000 people in the U.S. were killed with a firearm in 2020.
Today, he shared with New Day about his motivations. After trying for 15 days to get a meeting with President Biden, Oliver saw the crane and thought, “OK, that could be an option.”
“We planned it in a very professional way with a lot of advisers in terms of safety,” he explained. “I know that I needed to stay safe. Joaquin needs me here, so I need to take care of myself. If I’m not here, Joaquin’s dad can’t do what he does. So, we did it yesterday because it was February 14th. It will be more impactful. And it is more impactful when you see the news today and I read that Joaquin Oliver’s dad sent a message.”
Another Parkland dad spoke out on the anniversary of the shooting yesterday. Fred Guttenberg lost his 14-year-old daughter, Jamie, during the shooting, and marked the anniversary with a series of Tweets, per TODAY.
“Dear Jamie,” the first tweet reads. “Today is 4 years since your voice was silenced. It is now 4 years since I last heard your laugh, saw your smile, and kissed you goodbye. It is now 4 years since I last had that typical parental worries about you and how your day was going?”
Later on, he talks about how he finds himself “asking ‘what if’ every minute of every day.”
He added: “Would you still be dancing? What if your murder never happened and the past four years included new photos, new videos, and new memories with you? What would they include? What would you be like today? I know with certainty you would still be the energy and voice in every room that you stepped into and that everyone would be responding to you. What if a shooter never came to your school that day? What if a teenager or any other person with known risks was never able to acquire guns or ammunition to cause harm to others? What would our family be like now? What would our community be like now? What would my life be like now?”
Guttenberg became a gun safety activist after his daughter was killed and is known for yelling at former President Trump during a State of the Union address for not adequately working to end gun violence in the country.
He also tweeted, “What if efforts to reduce gun violence had been passed after any of the other shootings that came before this?” and “What if America understood before you were killed, or even today, that reducing gun violence is a public health issue and not a second amendment issue? What if because of that, instead of becoming a symbol for the failure of America to protect life, fate had intervened in a different way, and made you a fighter for others?”
According to new research by nonprofit organization Everytown for Gun Safety, which focuses on gun violence prevention, the first half of the 2021-2022 school year had the most school gun violence in recent history.
In an article published Friday, the report found that between August 1 and December 31, 2021, at least 136 incidents of gunfire occurred on school grounds, killing 26 and wounding 96. This is the most instances and people shot that five-month period since Everytown began tracking in 2013.
“Although four years have passed since the day that changed my life, there’s not a moment that goes by that I’m not reminded of what happened,” said Sari Kaufman, a volunteer leader with Students Demand Action and a member of the Everytown Survivor Network who survived the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018, in the article. “Every shooting, every lockdown, and every news story about a new school shooting opens up wounds from my own experiences. Too often, lawmakers see survivors’ pain and trauma and do nothing. Thoughts, prayers, and social media posts aren’t going to solve the problem — we need action.”
A study published last month by Everytown for Gun Safety found that states with weaker gun laws have higher rates of gun deaths, including homicides, suicides, and accidental killings.
“What this project does, is show what we’ve been saying for years: Gun laws save lives,” said Nick Suplina, senior vice president of law and policy at Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, per CNN. “We think this is going to be a really important tool for lawmakers, reporters and advocates that have been looking for the kind of visual tool that can make that case clearly.”
Everytown for Gun Safety recommends several practices parents can do to minimize gun violence in their homes. This includes implementing secure firearm storage practices to protect children and teenagers from accessing guns. The Department of Homeland Security’s National Threat Assessment Center said up to 80% of school shooters obtain their gun from their home or the home of relatives or friends. Research has shown that an estimated 54 percent of gun owners don’t lock all of their gun securely, and at least 5.4 million children in 2021 lived in a home with at least one unlocked and loaded firearm.
In a statement to Newsweek yesterday, the March for Our Lives organization called on President Biden to do more to curb gun violence. They said: “It shocks the conscience, however, that gun violence has continued to worsen. Under this president, who committed to ending gun violence in his campaign, gun violence remains sky-high. We are compelled to speak out and demand that the president keep his promises to fight the gun violence epidemic.”
On Feb. 3, 2022, the Biden Administration announced additional actions to reduce gun crime. According to a statement: “This plan builds on the steps the President has taken since the beginning of his Administration to stop the flow of guns being used in crimes, bolster federal, state, and local law enforcement, invest in community-based programs that prevent, interrupt, and reduce violence, expand opportunity, lower recidivism, and increase funding for community policing.”
Last February, Parkland shooting survivor Catherine Allen wrote a damning piece for SheKnows, calling on Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene to resign for spreading malicious conspiracy theories, and urging Congress to honor survivors of gun violence by passing life-saving gun safety legislation. Her sentiments still hold true today. While we are happy for the (very little) progress that is being made to keep our kids safer in schools, there is still so much more that needs to be done to feel truly at ease as a parent.
Per the New York Times, the families of the Sandy Hook victims have said that “a central aim of the lawsuit was to pry open the [firearm] industry and expose it to more scrutiny.” The article goes on to add that the majority of litigation against gun manufacturers is blocked by the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, passed in 2005 by then-President George W. Bush, which grants immunity to companies industry-wide. This blanket protection has attracted increasing scrutiny, however, and President Biden has said that he wants to end it — a move which gun advocates say could sink the industry.
Our hearts go out to all the families of gun violence victims, today and every day — and we hope that this landmark settlement is a step in the right direction, so that no other families will have to fear that their children’s classrooms will become war zones.
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