A San Diego County Superior Court judge ruled Wednesday that victims of the 2019 Poway synagogue shooting can file a lawsuit against the manufacturer and vendor of the firearm used in the attack.
The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act safeguards gunmakers and sellers from legal liability for criminal acts committed by individuals using their weapons.
Nonetheless, the law permits litigation if the maker or seller knowingly violated state or federal law.
The law also allows suits against sellers for “negligent entrustment” if they reasonably knew the weapon they were selling could be used in a criminal act.
Judge Kenneth Medel ruled that in the case of the Poway shooting, the victims and their families sufficiently alleged that gun-making giant Smith & Wesson knew its rifle was easily modifiable into an “assault rifle,” thus violating California law, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Furthermore, Medel said the plaintiffs could sue on the grounds that the gunmaker negligently advertised its products to youths on social media platforms and in video game-style commercials, according to the Chronicle.
The gun store can also be taken to court for selling the firearm to 19-year-old shooter John Earnest in April 2019.
Earnest did not possess a hunting license, without which he was subject to a California law that prohibits individuals under the age of 21 from owning long guns, the Chronicle reported.
A day after purchasing the gun, Earnest entered a synagogue in Poway, California, and began shooting at worshippers within.
He killed 60-year-old Lori Gilbert Kaye and injured three others in the attack, which took place on the last day of the Jewish Passover.
The victims included an 8-year-old girl and the synagogue’s rabbi, according to the Chronicle.
Earnest faces state murder charges carrying a potential death sentence and federal “hate crime” charges, the outlet reported.
Jon Lowy, chief counsel for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said the Wednesday ruling is a win for “all Americans who believe that the gun industry is not above the law.”
The Brady Campaign is suing the gun manufacturer and gun store on behalf of the victims of the shooting, the Chronicle reported.
In 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court permitted a similar lawsuit against Remington Arms.
The company produced the rifle that Adam Lanza used to kill 20 first graders and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
The families of the victims sued on the grounds that Remington Arms violated Connecticut law “by selling and promoting a military-style weapon,” according to the Chronicle.
On Tuesday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a law passed by the Democrat-controlled state Legislature that similarly opens the door for lawsuits against gun manufacturers.
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