Question of the day
Thursday, Sep 29, 2022 - Posted by Isabel Miller
Survivors of the mass shooting at a suburban Chicago Independence Day parade and family members of those killed filed 11 lawsuits Wednesday against the manufacturer of the rifle used in the attack, accusing gun-maker Smith & Wesson of illegally targeting its ads at young men at risk of committing mass violence.
The sweeping effort by dozens of victims of the Highland Park shooting, anti-gun violence advocates and private attorneys announced Wednesday is the latest bid to hold gun manufacturers accountable for a mass killing despite broad protections for the industry in federal law.
The group’s strategy mirrors the approach used by relatives of victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook school killings, who in February reached a $73 million settlement with the firearm company that produced the rifle used in that attack. That was believed to be the largest payment by a gun-maker related to a mass killing and hinged on the families’ accusation that Remington violated Connecticut consumer protection law by marketing its AR-15-style weapons to young men already at risk of committing violence.
“The shooter did not act on his own,” said Alla Lefkowitz, senior director of affirmative litigation for the gun safety organization Everytown. “What happened in Highland Park on July 4 was the result of deliberate choices made by certain members of the industry.”
The complaint is here.
* USA Today…
A central claim of the legal action is that the gun manufacturer behind the M&P 15 semiautomatic rifle illegally targeted young men at risk of violence with advertisements for firearms. […]
The suit alleges Smith & Wesson ads mimic a first-person shooter perspective depicted in many popular video games, utilize visuals of apparent military or law enforcement personnel and emphasize the gun’s combat features. […]
Families of Sandy Hook victims claimed Remington violated Connecticut consumer protection law by marketing its guns to young men with an existing risk of committing violence. A lawyer at the center of the Sandy Hook settlement issued a letter in June to the maker of the AR-15 used in the Uvalde Elementary School mass shooting in Texas on behalf of the father of one of the victims, seeking answers about marketing their products to teens and children.
In addition to Smith & Wesson, the accused gunman and his father, the victims are also suing Red Dot Arms, the gun store where the accused gunman purchased the weapon and Bud’s Gun Shop, an online gun distributor.
* Legal strategy breakdown by the Tribune…
Gun manufacturers have historically been protected from lawsuits like this under the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, a law Congress passed in 2005 that gives gun manufacturers and dealers broad immunity from lawsuits. But attorneys and experts on Wednesday asserted that there is an exception that allows for the lawsuits to proceed.
“That exception is when a member of the gun industry knowingly violates a state or federal law applicable to the sale or marketing of firearms, and here that is exactly what is being alleged,” Alla Lefkowitz, senior director of affirmative litigation for Everytown Law, said at the news conference. “Smith & Wesson, in addition to the two guns shops named as defendants, did violate the law.”
Lefkowitz said the legal coalition believes Smith & Wesson violated Illinois consumer protection laws by using deceptive marketing and advertising to sell the M&P15 as a military weapon. But the lawsuit claims that the sales do not reflect this, and attorneys on Wednesday called the idea that the weapon was used by the military a “fiction” pushed by the company, which went so far as to trademark the name “M&P,” a reference to “military and police” as a way to attract customers. […]
It was people like Crimo, the lawsuit contends, that Smith & Wesson had directly in their crosshairs as they sought to make more money through such marketing, which also promised “more adrenaline” and encourages consumers to “kick brass.”
* ABC Chicago…
While police say the assault-style rifle Crimo III allegedly used in the shooting, a Smith and Wesson M&P 15, was legally purchased, the lawsuit says Smith and Wesson “facilitates violence for profit,” and targets vulnerable young men to market their products too.
“The shooter fits the demographic of customers that Smith & Wesson targeted with its negligent and unlawful marketing,” the lawsuit says. “An avid user of the social media platforms used by Smith & Wesson to promote its assault rifles, the shooter displayed his hardcore violent fantasies online, styling himself on one platform as a “Master Gunnery Sergeant,” and on others as a video game assassin. He spewed hatred online and often posted videos of himself playing first-person-shooter games.”
The lawsuit says that after the shooting, Smith and Wesson portrayed itself as the victim and outlines what the plaintiffs say is a pattern and history of marketing towards young men with a propensity for violence.
“Smith & Wessson’s marketing campaigns don’t just blur the line between fantasy and reality, they destroy it,” said attorney Ari Scharg, with Edelson.
The civil lawsuits now pending in Lake County are separate from the criminal charges that shooting suspect Robert Crimo III faces and assert the defendants violated the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act, which prohibits consumer fraud and deceptive practices. […]
The gunmaker, the lawsuits say, “markets its assault rifles to young, impulsive men by appealing to their propensity for risk and excitement” by maintaining an active presence on social media using violent video games — including ones played by Crimo — and social influencers as marketing tools.
“For Smith & Wesson, the younger the shooter, the better,” the lawsuits say.
They say the gunmaker’s marketing campaign continued even though Smith & Wesson “knew or should have known in the last decade, mass shooters have used Smith & Wesson weapons as their weapons of choice.”
* The Question: Your thoughts on this legal action?