On The Sandy Hook Settlement

Michael R Crites

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The basis of the Sandy Hook lawsuit, which drew headlines nationwide as it ended (?) last week with a $73 million settlement, is being misrepresented by about everyone that is reporting on it.

While the headlines all say that “Remington” settled the suit, brought about by survivors of the 2013 shooting in which the killer first slew his mother and then stole her legally purchased registered Bushmaster rifle and Glock pistol from her gun safe, the fact is that that Remington as it existed in 2013 (“Remington Outdoor Company”) went belly up in 2020, its assets sold to the four winds in a federal bankruptcy proceeding.

The current name is owned by Vista Outdoors, which makes ammo under a half-dozen brands (Federal, CCI, Blazer, Speer, et. al) who was not a party to the lawsuit and does not make guns.

Who did pay the $73 million– but did not accept blame or liability– were Remington’s four former (circa 2013) insurance companies who, facing the possibility of a jury trial in Connecticut, which is a small state and where Sandy Hook is still fresh in the collective memory, weighed the odds of winning and losing in court then decided to offer a settlement to be able to walk away and stop paying the lawyers.

While the 2005 federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which insulates the gun industry from frivolous lawsuits, in particular those over the criminal misuse of their products by a third party (insert analogies of drunk driver survivors suing Ford), was invoked by the old Remington successfully several times in court, in the end, the case came down to how the Bushmaster rifle was advertised, with the Sandy Hook families arguing it was targeted to potentially mal-adjusted young men, in a move akin to blaming Joe Camel for kids smoking.

While this crack in the armor of PLCAA is sure to be pursued in coming years to drag gun companies into court, and will probably change how they advertise guns, it is far from the massive legal victory claimed by the White House and gun control groups who have been taking a victory lap.

As noted by the NSSF of the settlement:

NSSF believes the Court incorrectly allowed this one claim to go forward to discover. We remain confident ROC would have prevailed if this case had it proceeded to trial.

Finally, this settlement orchestrated by insurance companies has no impact on the strength and efficacy of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), which remains the law of the land. PLCAA will continue to block baseless lawsuits that attempt to blame lawful industry companies for the criminal acts of third parties.

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