A judge in Canada ruled this week that Smith & Wesson may be liable for a 2018 shooting because the gun company failed to implement “smart gun” technology.
The suit is being brought by the victims of a 2018 mass shooting in Toronto that left two people dead and 13 injured. The perpetrator used a .40-caliber Smith & Wesson M&P handgun that had been stolen from a gun shop, but the judge ruled that the gun company may still be liable.
“The immediate case may demonstrate that there came a time when it was careless for Smith & Wesson not to utilize invented authorized user technology, of which there were many types, some of which Smith & Wesson invented and patented,” Judge Paul Perell of the Superior Court of Ontario said in his decision allowing the case to move forward.
Smith & Wesson did not immediately respond to a GunsAmerica request for comment.
Nicolas Johnson, who runs the pro-gun website TheGunBlog.ca, said in an interview with GunsAmerica that the case defies reason.
“Logic and reason would dictate that the case is a non-starter. But logic and reason don’t always win,” he said. “The lawsuit is like a cliche we make fun of. Blaming a firearm maker for causing injuries is like blaming a fork maker for causing obesity or blaming a pencil maker for causing typos.”
Smith & Wesson argued as much in their petition to dismiss the case. The incident occurred, they said, not due to their alleged negligence but to the criminal acts of the killer.
They also pointed out that an ultimate ruling in favor of the plaintiffs would have “industry shattering consequences.” So-called “smart gun” technology exists but is not a viable option for major gun manufacturers. It is cost prohibitive, and it has not been proven to be reliable.
Judge Perell insisted that the plaintiffs should have their day in court.
“The difficulty… for Smith & Wesson in advancing this argument is that in the immediate case, there was a precaution that could have been taken to avail itself against the volition of Mr. Hussain shooting those innocents on the Danforth,” he said. “The precaution that could have been taken is the implementation of authorized user technology.”
This isn’t the first lawsuit in recent years to gain traction against a gun manufacturer over their alleged role in mass murders.
In 2019, the Connecticut Supreme Court allowed a lawsuit to move forward against Remington for their alleged role in the Sandy Hook mass murder. In that suit, the plaintiffs argue that Remington’s advertising practices contributed to the murderer’s decision to kill 26 people in 2012.
The parents of a woman killed in the Las Vegas massacre launched a similar lawsuit against Colt the same year.
“It was only a question of when – not if – a gunman would take advantage of the ease of modifying AR-15s to fire automatically in order to substantially increase the body count during a mass shooting,” the lawsuit states, according to the Associated Press. “Having created the conditions that made a mass shooting with a modified AR-15 inevitable, Defendant Manufacturers continued conducting business as usual.”
The case against Smith & Wesson will continue to the second stage, the judge said.