By Mary Sanchez
Scroll the websites of the iconic gun and ammo brand Remington and clearly, the new campaign does not match recent headlines.
Mentions of muskets and the arming of soldiers for world war paint the picture of a grand company history dating back to 1816. The outline culminates with a current emphasis on hunting and sport.
“Welcome to a New Era of Remington,” touts the re-imagined ammunition side of the bankrupt company.
Most Americans (with the exception of extreme animal rights folks) would be down with the bucolic nature-filled scenes. It is Americana exemplified, especially from the view of the Midwest, where hunting and fishing are part of many people’s childhood experiences, often becoming lifelong pursuits. Mine included, although trout are my only goal.
None of this outdoorsy vibe is why the Remington brand is in the news. The terror of the deaths at Sandy Hook Elementary School, is why.
Remington has been busy in recent months rebranding itself, distancing from the Sandy Hook fallout before it struck. Post bankruptcy, two new firms emerged, with the company’s firearms manufacturing split from the ammunition side.
The extreme disconnect between the Sandy Hook reality and the sporting Remington displayed on their website is emblematic of why gun issues are so incredibly difficult to discuss.
Say “firearms” to one person and memories of long walks in fields while hunting with a beloved parent, or time spent with friends and highly qualified trainers on a well-managed shooting range flood their brains.
“Firearms” to others, evokes another reality of what that same weaponry is also used for; massive bloodshed, retaliatory killings between teenagers, untrained wannabe cops and the bitter, often lethal control expressed in domestic violence.
Both are true. And Remington found itself in that crosshair because the company put itself there.
Ten years after 20 children and six school employees were slaughtered in their Newtown, Connecticut classrooms, a handful of the families won against what was once thought to be an insurmountable legal protection for gun manufacturers.
It was a major victory for gun violence prevention because the $73 million settlement used a state law to find a way around the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act of 2005, which is perceived as offering a near blanket immunity for gun manufacturers when something horrible is done with their product.
The Sandy Hook families won by pressing under a state law that challenged that the company marketed the Remington Bushmaster AR-15 rifle as something that would appeal to “young, violence-prone men,” according to reports of the proceedings. People like Adam Lanza, the Sandy Hook shooter who took his mother’s Remington rifle, killed her, then went to the elementary school that horrible December day.
The slogan, “Consider your man card reissued” was part of the marketing that was questioned in the lawsuit. The Sandy Hook families won by pressing under a state law that challenged that the company marketed the Remington Bushmaster AR-15 rifle as something that would appeal to “young, violence-prone men,” according to reports of the proceedings. People like Adam Lanza, the Sandy Hook shooter who took his mother’s Remington rifle, killed her, then went to the elementary school that horrible December day.
The slogan, “Consider your man card reissued” was part of the marketing that was questioned in the lawsuit.
The concept that companies can be complicit in the horrors that men do, scored.
Remington will pay, through its insurers.
The company, which manufactured and marketed the Bushmaster AR-15 rifle used in the murders, will have to open its corporate files. The disclosures are expected to allow scrutiny of company decision-making, the type of trade-offs to public safety that the famed firm is suspected of making to garner profits.
Tracing how such choices are made is crucial. People need to understand how rationalizations grind into company doings, and most likely, how some who questioned the tones in marketing military-grade weapons were hushed.
Remington is but one stakeholder in the mythologizing of firearms, and certainly no one brand deserves the full blame for America’s gun violence. Politicians are legendary manipulators in this arena, along with the much maligned National Rifle Association, tainted by its own leadership scandals.
But this portion of the Sandy Hook victim’s settlement could flesh out the marketing magic that stokes some of the fallacies that Americans hold dear when it comes to guns.
There’s the idea that more firearms equate to greater safety, or that gun owners are knighted with good guy heroism, that their testosterone surges in ways that the unholstered can’t muster.
The reality check is that good guys with guns, especially those who don’t prep with training and safety courses, freeze at moments of stress because that’s what humans do, they misfire. Guns are stolen at astounding rates when not secured and far too often those firearms show up at heinous crimes. Guns for illicit purposes are bought and sold at fast clips and wind up in car jackings and domestic violence incidents.
Don’t want to stomach those scenarios? OK, just think about the number of accidental shooting deaths by firearms (535 in 2020) and suicides (24,292), which were higher than the 19,384 killed with guns in homicides.
Americans have built so many myths around guns that it will take decades, if ever, to separate fact from our fictions. Understanding how we got here is important.
The files of Remington, a storied name that is steeped in Wild West and “untamed spirit” lore, is a small start.
Readers can reach Mary Sanchez at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @msanchezcolumn.
2022 Mary Sanchez. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.