Survivors of the July mass shooting that killed six people and injured dozens in a Chicago suburb sued the gunmaker on Wednesday. Smith & Wessonaccusing him of deliberately marketing his weapons to violence-prone youths through the social networks and ads similar to video games.
In a series of lawsuits filed in Lake County, Illinois Circuit Court, the survivors, including the relatives of the murderedThey said the Springfield, Mass.-based company was “deliberately trying to get its guns into the hands of disturbed youth targeting and exploiting the risk-seeking, and often worrisome, desires of these consumers.”
Smith & Wesson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Six people were killed and more than 36 were injured in a July 4 parade in Highland Park, Illinois, after a gunman opened fire on the crowd from a rooftop. Robert Crimo, 21, was arrested in the shooting hours later and has pleaded not guilty to 117 charges, including first-degree murder.
Wednesday’s lawsuits allege that Smith & Wesson knowingly advertised its weapons, including the M&P model rifle used by Crimo, to appeal to the “militaristic fantasies” of troubled youth.
That marketing included the name “M&P”, for “military and police“, which they said falsely implied an endorsement by the US military and law enforcement. It also included the use of social media influencers and ads resembling first-person shooters such as “Call of Duty“.
“(Crimo) and other potential mass shooters are highly susceptible to Smith & Wesson’s disruptive promotional messages,” the lawsuits say.
The plaintiffs said the company’s marketing violated two Illinois consumer protection laws by making misleading statements and encouraging harm to the public. They are asking the court to stop Smith & Wesson from marketing allegedly illegal, including imposing age restrictions on social media content and removing military references, and awarding unspecified monetary damages.
Historically, it has been difficult to hold weapons manufacturers in court for mass shootings. A 2005 federal law, the Law for the Protection of the Legal Trade in Arms, largely protects them from lawsuits for crimes committed with their products, although it makes an exception if they trade them illegally.
Remington Arms agreed in February to pay $73 million to the families of five children and four adults killed by an elementary school shooter Sandy Hook in Newtown, Connecticut, the first such deal by a gun manufacturer. (rts)