In the latest bid to hold gun manufacturers accountable for mass killings despite broad protections the federal law gives the industry, survivors and family members of people killed during the July 4 mass shooting at a suburban Chicago parade are suing the manufacturer of the rifle used in the attack.
Dozens of victims of the Highland Park shooting, anti-gun violence advocates, and private attorneys announced Wednesday they filed 11 lawsuits accusing gun-maker Smith & Wesson of illegally targeting its ads at young men at risk of committing mass violence.
They are also suing the accused 19-year-old gunman Robert E. Crimo III for assault and battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress and his father Robert Crimo Jr., for negligence.
They argue that Robert Crimo Jr sponsored his son’s application for a state firearms license in 2019 although months before he attempted to kill himself and threatened family members.
Robert E. Crimo III, who admitted to the parade killings when police arrested him hours after the attack, used Smith & Wesson’s M&P 15 semiautomatic rifle as the weapon to fire on the parade.
Lake County prosecutors say that he faces 21 counts of first-degree murder, 48 counts of attempted murder, and 48 counts of aggravated battery, representing those killed and wounded during the parade.
According to Alla Lefkowitz, senior director of affirmative litigation for the gun safety organization Everytown, the mass shooting that happened in Highland Park on July 4 was the result of deliberate choices made by certain members of the industry.
Plaintiffs now argue in their lawsuits that Smith & Wesson ads are dangerously appealing to impulsive young men with hero complexes and/or militaristic delusions, citing misleading imagery of apparent military or law enforcement personnel, the M&P 15′s combat features, and mimicking the shooter’s-eye view popularized by video games that the adds use and emphasize.
According to the lawyer of one of the survivors, the advertisements and marketing tactics Smith & Wesson uses demonstrate that the company knowingly marketed, advertised, and promoted the rifle used in the attack to civilians for illegal purposes.