The gun banners’ quest to bankrupt the firearms industry via frivolous lawsuits gained some ground last week when a California judge allowed a case against Smith & Wesson to move forward.
Smith & Wesson was hoping that the court would dismiss the suit under the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), which shields gun makers and sellers from being held liable for the criminal acts of third parties.
However, Judge Kenneth J. Medel of the Superior Court of California for San Diego County denied the gun company’s motion for dismissal.
Brady Campaign lawyers, who are representing the plaintiffs, cheered the decision.
“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, and all Americans who believe that the gun industry is not above the law. We look forward to proving our case in court, and working to prevent future tragedies,” said Jonathan Lowy, Brady Chief Counsel and Vice President of Legal, in a press release.
Brady sued the gun maker and an FFL earlier this year for it calls “irresponsible and unlawful conduct by a firearms manufacturer and seller for making, marketing, or selling weapons in an unsafe and illegal manner.”
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, the dealer, 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.”
Brady was inspired to take legal action by the success of a similar lawsuit filed against Remington Arms for the 2012 mass killing at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry trade association, told GunsAmerica via email that, despite the Sandy Hook suit, Judge Medel’s decision is a “departure from legal precedent.”
“The decision to allow this lawsuit to move ahead under grounds that the manufacturer is not protected by the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) is a departure from legal precedent,” said Mark Oliva, NSSF director of public affairs.
“No manufacturers have ever advocated for the criminal misuse of a firearm. In fact, Smith & Wesson participates the firearm industry’s Real Solutions® campaign which aims to keep firearms from prohibited individuals,” he continued.
Oliva indicated that in the end, this case will fall to pieces as there was only one party ultimately responsible for the tragedy.
“Facts in the case matter. The firearm produced by the manufacturer is lawful. There was no attempt to modify this firearm, making allegations of firearms being designed to be easily modified to circumvent federal law clearly a politically-driven agenda. The party responsible for the horrific crimes at the Chabad of Poway Synagogue is the murderer who callously ignored the respect for innocent lives and the laws in place to protect those lives,” said Oliva.
“NSSF is confident that, while this case was allowed to move forward, it will ultimately show the only person responsible for these horrific crimes is the individual that committed them,” he concluded
About the Complaint Per Brady Campaign:
Filed in June 2020, the complaint alleges that Smith & Wesson negligently designed and unlawfully marketed the rifle. The complaint also alleges that the dealer violated California law which prohibited transferring the Shooter the weapon due to his age unless he presented a valid California hunting license. The Complaint alleges that the Shooter presented a California hunting license which was not yet in effect. The complaint also includes claims for which Neil Gilmor from the Law firm Artiano Shinoff and the Law Offices of Sheldon A. Ostroff are representing the plaintiffs for negligent or intentional torts against the State of California, the shooter and the shooter’s family.