Emboldened by the partial success of a similar lawsuit against Remington, the gun control group Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence has launched a lawsuit against Smith & Wesson for what it calls “irresponsible and unlawful conduct by a firearms manufacturer and seller for making, marketing, or selling weapons in an unsafe and illegal manner.”
The suit was filed in San Diego Superior Court. It arises from an April 2019 incident in which a 20-year-old man who had made anti-Semitic statements killed one person at Chabad of Poway synagogue and wounded three others. He used a Smith & Wesson Model M&P 15 Sport II to commit the crime.
Plaintiffs have also accused San Diego Guns of unlawfully selling the man the rifle, his parents for facilitating their son’s behavior, and California’s Fish and Wildlife Department for not conducting a proper background check.
The suit alleges that Smith & Wesson’s rifle could be easily modified into an “assault weapon” in violation of California law or to “fire automatically,” according to a statement from Brady. The group also claims the gun maker “marketed the rifle in violation of California’s unfair business practices law, in a manner attractive to customers like the shooter, young men predisposed to violence.”
“The victims and survivors of this Passover shooting are bringing suit because they do not want another family or congregation, of any faith, to suffer as theirs did,” said Brady’s Chief Legal Counsel Jonathan Lowy. “Dealers should sell guns legally and carefully. Manufacturers shouldn’t design, market and sell assault weapons to attract and facilitate would-be mass shooters.”
Brady’s statement mentions a similar lawsuit against Remington, which it says was “upheld” in a Connecticut court. In reality, the suit was all but dismissed, as GunsAmerica reported in March 2019. The courts threw out each of the plaintiffs’ claims except one that alleged improper marketing practices. The Connecticut Supreme Court allowed that portion of the suit to move forward, but it has not yet been litigated.
This lawsuit against Smith & Wesson uses almost identical language to the suit against Remington. It claims the gun maker should be held accountable for “irresponsible” marketing practices that allegedly attract militaristic young men prone to violence.
The suit also claims that San Diego Guns should be liable for selling the murderer the rifle he used in the crime. According to ABC 10 News San Diego, California law makes it illegal to sell a firearm to anyone under the age of 21 unless that person has completed a hunter’s safety course.
The suspect completed a hunter’s course on the same day he purchased the rifle, and presumably showed the gun shop employees the certificate of completion that law enforcement found in his bedroom. But the license was not actually valid until July.
The executive director of San Diego County Gun Owners PAC told Times of San Diego: “What happened to the synagogue and those who attended is horrific. The lawsuit they are filing, in part, is asinine in that they are blaming the gun shop and manufacturer for the actions of a highly disturbed monster.
“The gun shop followed state law to the letter and communicated with the California DOJ flawlessly,” said Michael Schwartz, the group’s leader. “The hunting license presented in order to purchase the firearm was legal, legitimate, issued by California, contained all required information, and was unaltered so therefore was valid.”
He continued: “The manufacturer is no more to blame than Ford or Chrysler is to blame for drunk driving. They are also legally protected by the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. This is settled law which makes naming them as plaintiffs frivolous. I hope the victims are able to find peace through other means rather than following the advice of those who only want profit.”