Sandy Hook Settlement Puts Predatory Advertisers on Notice

“When you’re making the world’s most lethal consumer product, it doesn’t make sense to try to promise glory or masculinity to some disaffected young person.”

— David Wheeler, father of Benjamin Wheeler, killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School

For decades, the advertising industry has been perfecting the art of exploiting people’s deepest fears and insecurities.

These predatory marketing practices were dealt a serious blow yesterday when the families of five children and four adults killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting won a $73 million settlement with Remington Arms, the now-bankrupt gun manufacturer that made the AR-15 style assault rifle used in the attack.

The case turned on a series of ads that explicitly targeted young men with the idea that the semi-automatic rifle offered a way to shore up and prove their manhood – or, as one ad campaign put it, to earn their “man card.”

“When you’re making the world’s most lethal consumer product, it doesn’t make sense to try to appeal to the sense of insecurity, or to try to promise glory or masculinity, to some disaffected young person,” said David Wheeler, whose 6-year-old son, Benjamin, was one of the 20 first graders and six adults killed in the attack at Sandy Hook.¹ “There’s a reasonable and a morally acceptable way to market anything. And you have to take into account the circumstances surrounding the product that you create and bring to the marketplace.”

If you’re an educator looking to dig deeper into the appeals to masculine anxiety that were at the center of this case, be sure to check out our film Tough Guise 2: Violence, Manhood & American CultureTough Guise 2 is available to rent or purchase in multiple digital formats and on DVD. You can also stream it on Kanopy through your university or library.


1. NPR’s Morning Edition (Feb. 16, 2022).