Judge Rules Synagogue Shooting Victims Can Sue Gun Manufacturers

(PresidentialInsider.com)- A California judge ruled that the survivors and families of the victims of a 2019 synagogue shooting are able to sue both Smith & Wesson and the gun store that sold the shooter the firearms.

Kenneth Medel, a judge in the San Diego Superior Court, dismissed the claim that was filed by weapon manufacturer Smith & Wesson. They were saying the lawsuit wasn’t permitted because of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.

The PLCAA, as it’s better known, protects both sellers and makers of guns from some of the responsibility when the products they sell and/or create are used in a crime.

In April 2019, 19-year-old John Earnest opened fire at a California synagogue called Chabad of Poway Synagogue. In the shooting, he killed one worshipper and injured three people. One of those injured was 8 years old at the time, and another was a rabbi at the synagogue.

The suspect is currently facing charges on both the federal and state level. The charges levied against him include hate crimes, violations of civil rights and murder.

Earnest didn’t have a state license to hunt at the time. If he had, he would’ve been allowed to own a long gun, even though California has a minimum age of 21 to own those weapons.

The plaintiffs’ lawyer in the case, Jonathan Lowry, said the judge’s decision was a “victory.” He said:

“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.”

The lawsuit was filed back in June of 2020. It claims Smith & Wesson breached California law when it manufactured its M&P15 rifle and allowed people to easily convert it into an assault weapon, according to a Reuters report.

Reuters further reported that those weapons were largely sold to civilians, even though the M&P in the name allegedly means “Military and Police.”

The lawsuit further claims the company uses tactics of marketing “that attracted impulsive young men with military complexes who were particularly likely to be attracted to the unique ability of AR-15 style weapons.”

In turn, they argued that people who might become mass shooters, such as Earnest, would then become attracted to that marketing and purchase the gun to commit the crime.

In his ruling, Judge Medel ruled the legality in question falls under an exception of PLCAA. That exception permits certain lawsuits if any state law is allegedly breached. Since the lawsuit claims Smith & Wesson violated the Unfair Competition Law in California, which bans marketing that is deceptive, then it falls under this exception.

Medel’s ruling also allows the plaintiffs to sue San Diego Guns, where Earnest purchased the weapon.

The lawsuit seeks damages that are unspecified and also an injunction forcing Smith & Wesson to stop marketing campaigns it currently runs, as well as change sales and distribution tactics.