According to a San Diego County Superior court judge, the victims of a synagogue shooting in California can sue gun manufacturer Smith & Wesson for damages. Normally gun makers can’t be sued just because they made the weapon but this case is a little unusual.
Judge sides with victims
Last week, Judge Kenneth Medel of the Superior Court for San Diego County “rejected an argument made by Smith & Wesson claiming lawsuits are prohibited under the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.” That’s the federal law intended to “provide protection to firearms manufacturers and retailers when their products are used in criminal activity.”
When they filed suit in 2020, these plaintiffs argued that the company “shouldn’t be shielded by the regulation because it broke state law by designing the M&P15 rifle to be easily modified into an ‘assault weapon.'”
Judge Medel agreed and said in his ruling that “alleged misleading marketing” is what “violated California’s unfair competition law.” As the plaintiff’s contend, the focused ads targeted “impulsive young men with military complexes who were particularly likely to be attracted to the unique ability of AR-15 style weapons.”
The plaintiffs asserted that using the “M&P” designation in the name refers to “military and police,” but the “gun was largely sold to civilians, including the alleged shooter, then 19-year-old John Earnest.”
Earnest negotiated a “conditional plea agreement” which is under review by the new Attorney General Merrick Garland in connection with the mass shooting. He’s accused of “opening fire in a synagogue in Poway, California, in April 2019, killing one person and wounding three others.”
When he started blasting there were 54 people in the synagogue. Thankfully, Earnest doesn’t appear to be a good marksman. He may get the death penalty but that’s not good enough for the victims. They want money and the judge agrees that Smith & Wesson has some attractively deep pockets.
Gun industry up in arms
“Today’s judgment is a victory, and an important step on the road to justice for the victims of the shooting at Chabad of Poway Synagogue, plaintiff attorney Jonathan Lowy said in a statement. “We look forward to proving our case in court, and working to prevent future tragedies.”
The judge helped them out immensely with the recent ruling. The lawsuit doesn’t specify the amount of damages but they’re also looking for an injunction.
The next thing that plaintiffs are hoping the judge will grant is a special order telling Smith & Wesson to “cease its allegedly deceptive marketing campaigns.”
The manufacturer supposedly produced “videogame-like commercials despite the known risks that young people in that demographic are highly susceptible to that type of advertising and have disproportionately perpetrated mass shooting using similar firearms.”
Along with Smith & Wesson, the judge also gave the okay to sue San Diego Guns, “the store where Earnest purchased the rifle.” He didn’t have a hunting license so was not legally allowed to own a “long gun,” being only 19 at the time he bought it.
Wednesday’s ruling is a victory for “all Americans who believe that the gun industry is not above the law,” Lowy added.