11 Suits in Mass Shooting Filed Against Smith & Wesson

Filings are centered on gun-maker's marketing of weapon
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 28, 2022 6:15 PM CDT
Smith & Wesson Faces 11 Suits Over July 4 Mass Shooting
Law enforcement officers search after a mass shooting at a Fourth of July parade in downtown Highland Park, Ill., on July 4.   (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)

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 AP reports. Representatives for Smith & Wesson did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

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. It 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 of 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."

One plaintiff argues that Smith & Wesson ads mimic the shooter's-eye view popularized by video games, use misleading imagery of apparent military or law enforcement personnel, and emphasize the M&P 15's combat features—all with a dangerous appeal to "impulsive young men with hero complexes and/or militaristic delusions." Advertising text also billed the rifle as "capable of handling as many rounds as you are" and providing “pure adrenaline.” One ad shows the M&P 15 on a dark background above the words "kick brass" in a bold red font and capital letters. "The advertisements and marketing tactics described above demonstrate that Smith & Wesson knowingly marketed, advertised, and promoted the Rifle to civilians for illegal purposes, including to carry out offensive, military style combat missions against their perceived enemies," plaintiff's attorneys argue.

(More Highland Park mass shooting stories.)

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