Court Battles

Lawsuit filed on behalf of Highland Park shooting victims against gun manufacturer

People check their belongings after a mass shooting at a Fourth of July parade in downtown Highland Park, Ill., a suburb of Chicago.
Nam Y. Huh/The Associated Press
People check their belongings after a mass shooting at a Fourth of July parade in downtown Highland Park, Ill., a suburb of Chicago.

A lawsuit has been filed on behalf of the victims of the July 4 shooting in Highland Park, Ill., against a gun manufacturer for advertising that the plaintiffs argue encourages criminal behavior. 

The law firm Edelson PC and anti-gun violence organization Brady filed the lawsuit on Wednesday against the manufacturer Smith & Wesson, arguing that the company played a role in the mass shooting during the Fourth of July parade that killed seven and injured dozens. 

The plaintiffs argue that Smith & Wesson should be held liable for unlawful marketing and advertising of its M&P 15 rifle, which the gunman used to carry out the mass shooting in just 60 seconds. 

The complaint alleges that the firearms manufacturer’s marketing campaign specifically targets adolescents who are drawn to the “risk-taking” that is associated with military weapons and combat missions, like first-person shooter video games. The release states that the first-person shooter game Call of Duty prominently features variants of the weapons that Smith & Wesson designs and manufactures. 

The M&P 15 rifle was also used in shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., in 2018 and the Aurora, Colo., movie theater shooting in 2012. 

The release states that the plaintiff of the complaint is Elizabeth Turnipseed, who was shot while standing on the parade route with her husband and daughter. Turnipseed sustained permanent injuries that will require lifelong medical treatment after a bullet hit major organs in her body. 

“You don’t expect to go to your child’s first parade and leave with something other than happy memories, but instead, I left with shrapnel permanently lodged in my body,” she said in the release. “This lawsuit will hopefully keep other families and other communities from suffering the same way that we and the Highland Park community have suffered.” 

Erin Davis, the senior counsel for trial and appellate litigation at Brady, said the plaintiffs are trying to stop the “irresponsible and unlawful sale and marketing of weapons of war” like those that were used in the Highland Park shooting. 

Ari Scharg, a partner of Edelson who was at the parade, said Turnipseed and other victims have a “historic opportunity” to hold Smith & Wesson accountable.

“The Highland Park community has rallied together and is emerging from the shooting stronger than ever,” Scharg said.

The release states that a coalition of law firms and firearm safety organizations, including Edelson, Brady and the law firm Romanucci & Blandin, is involved in filing multiple related complaints. The gun control advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety’s legal arm is also among those in the coalition.

Antonio Romanucci, a founding partner of the Romanucci & Blandin firm, said at a press conference that Smith & Wesson advertised the M&P 15 to do “exactly what the shooter did” during the July 4 parade, which changed “people’s lives forever.” He said a “clear and calculated” marketing strategy from the manufacturer surrounded young and vulnerable people with messages of violence, causing a “predictable” result of “carnage.” 

Smith & Wesson did not immediately return a request from The Hill for comment.

–Updated on Sept. 29 at 8:04 a.m.

Tags firearms manufacturer Fourth of July shooting Highland Park shooting Highland Park shooting mass shooting Smith & Wesson Smith & Wesson
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