The survivors of the shooting in the suburb Chicago Independence Day parade and relatives of the victims filed lawsuits on Wednesday against the maker of the weapon that was used in the attack. The gun maker Smith & Wesson is accused of illegally advertising its products to young men who could be susceptible to committing massive violence.
The broad effort launched by hundreds of people who were victims of the Highland Park shooting, anti-gun violence advocates, and private lawyers announced on Wednesday is the latest attempt to hold gun makers accountable for mass murders despite broad protections provided to the industry under federal law.
The strategy of the group is similar to the method used by the family members of the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012. Sandy Hook school killings, in February signed an agreement of $73 million with the firearms manufacturer that manufactured the weapon used in the attack. It was thought to be the biggest settlement from a firearm manufacturer related to the mass shooting and was based on the families claim that Remington had violated Connecticut law on consumer protection in marketing its AR-15-style guns to young men who are already in danger of committing violent acts.
“The shooter did not act on his own,” stated Alla Lefkowitz, the senior director of affirmative litigation at the gun safety group Everytown. “What happened in Highland Park on July 4 was the result of deliberate choices made by certain members of the industry.”
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Liz Turnipseed is among the Highland Park survivors alleging that the gun maker and the suspect shooter as well as his father and two gun dealers bear some of the blame for the shooting.
in an interview with The Associated Press this week, Turnipseed said before the shots began to sound she was having fun with her husband and three-year-old daughter, who was playing instruments in the band at high school. Turnipseed was thrown to the ground after getting shot in the pelvis. She recalls watching her daughter’s stroller lying in the back, and requesting her husband to take their daughter safely.
Turnipseed told her she needed weeks of intensive wound care she expects to require a cane for a while and is currently in treatment to treat post-traumatic stress disorder. Turnipseed was also forced to hold off the embryo transfer scheduled for July 12 because her doctors are now concerned that it could be risky for her to fall pregnant.
Despite her emotional and physical stress, the Highland Park resident became determined to stand up for those who were not able to suffer the horrors of mass shootings in the U.S., particularly the 19 children and two educators who were killed in one of the elementary schools located in Uvalde, Texas, in the latter part of May.
“I had a unique opportunity to help put a real face on what these guns do to people and … give it a first-person perspective,” Turnipseed stated. “Because there aren’t a lot of us who endure. Because they’re deadly.”
The representatives of Smith & Wesson, based in Springfield, Massachusetts, did not immediately respond to requests for clarification on Wednesday.
The survivors of the attack as well as relatives of the victims talked to journalists on Wednesday morning, discussing the dramatic changes they have experienced in their lives following the shooting. They repeatedly blamed the manufacturer of the gun in enabling the shooter.
Three of the seven victims killed during the shooting at Highland Park — Stephen Straus, Jackie Sundheim, and Nicolas Toledo — are the plaintiffs. The family of the 4th victim Eduardo Uvaldo has retained the legal counsel who dealt with cases like the Sandy Hook lawsuit.
“The pain, loss, and grief that we must endure is never ending,” Jon Straus, one of Straus’ two sons announced at a ceremony to unveil the suit. “This time, it is our families. If we repeat it the same thing could happen to you.”
Prosecutors have stated that Robert E. Crimo III admitted to the murders at the parade when police detained him for just hours after the incident. Police have identified Smith and Wesson’s M&P 15 semiautomatic rifle as the weapon used by him to attack the parade.
It asserts the Smith & Wesson ads mimic the”shooter’s eye” view that is popularized in video games. They also use deceitful images of police or military personnel, and highlight the M&P 15’s combat capabilities -but all with a perilous appeal towards “impulsive young men with hero complexes and/or militaristic delusions.”
“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,” her lawyers claim.
Ari Scharg, an attorney at the law firm of Chicago Edelson PC representing Turnipseed, said that the lawyers representing Highland Park victims are determined to get their cases heard. Highland Park victims are determined to take their case further by bringing their cases in front of a juror.
“There’s certainly a long path, and it’s an uphill battle,” Scharg stated. “But I think this is the most important case in the country being litigated right now … and we’re going to see it through to the end.”
The victims are also seeking to sue the gunman accused of battery and assault, as well as for the intentional infliction of emotional distress. They also are suing their father Robert Crimo Jr. He is being sued for negligence, notably in promoting his son’s application to get an official state firearms license in 2019, within months of the 19-year-old’s attempt to kill himself and threatened relatives. Two gun dealers are being accused of violating the bans for assault firearms within Highland Park and the accused town where the gunman was born, Highwood.
Crimo III is charged with 21 counts of murder in the first degree and attempts to murder 48 times, and 48 counts of battery aggravated in connection with the deaths and injured during the march held in Highland Park.
Lake County prosecutors have not made an indictment against the man’s father. They have repeatedly refused to talk about any possibility Crimo Jr. might be prosecuted at some point in the future.