Highland Park victims sue gun-maker, stores over negligence and deceptive practices
Residents deliver flowers and leave chalk messages at a memorial depicting the seven people killed after a mass shooting at the Fourth of July parade in Highland Park. - Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/TNS

Calling this summer's Independence Day parade massacre in Highland Park, Illinois "predictable and preventable," the families of three people who were killed joined several people who were injured in filing a lawsuit against several parties, including gun-maker Smith & Wesson, on Wednesday.

Along with the company—which plaintiffs argue violated a consumer protection law—the families and victims sued online retailer Bud's Gun Shop, local gun store Red Dot Arms, shooting suspect Robert Crimo III, and Robert Crimo, Jr., the suspect's father.

The "shooter was the type of a young consumer susceptible to Smith & Wesson's deceptive and unfair marketing, and was enabled by his father," reads the lawsuit.

The two gun stores should not have sold Crimo—who also faces criminal charges—the Smith & Wesson firearm he is accused of using, the lawsuit argues, as his billing address clearly showed he lived in Highland Park, where assault weapons are prohibited.

"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."

The families also argue that Crimo's father "enabled the shooter's thirst for violence by sponsoring his [Firearm Owners Identification] application, despite his knowledge that the shooter was disturbed and threatened violence."

According to Brady Legal, one of the firms representing the plaintiffs, Smith & Wesson should be held "liable for unlawful marketing and advertising of its M&P 15 assault rifle," which Crimo allegedly used to kill seven people and wound 48 people on July 4th.

"Smith & Wesson's marketing campaigns specifically targeted adolescents, who are drawn to the risk-taking associated with militaristic weapons and combat missions, such as young players of violent first-person shooter video games like Call of Duty, which prominently features variants of the weapons designed and manufactured by Smith & Wesson," said Brady Legal.

The lawsuit argues the company is guilty of violating the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Practices Act by promising prospective gun buyers that they can "experience real-life first-person shooting with the Smith & Wesson M&P rifle" and "experience more adrenaline" with their products.

Elizabeth Turnipseed, the lead plaintiff in the suit, was shot while attending the parade with her husband and three-year-old daughter. A bullet hit her major organs and her injuries "will require lifelong medical treatment."

"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," said Turnipseed. "This lawsuit will hopefully keep other families and other communities from suffering the same way that we and the Highland Park community have suffered."

Victims of a synagogue shooting in Poway, California in 2019 also sued Smith & Wesson over its advertising practices; that case is still underway. Gun manufacturer Remington settled a similar case with the families of victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, agreeing to pay a reported $73 million.

Through such lawsuits, Erin Davis, senior counsel for trial and appellate litigation at Brady, told Vanity Fair, "products get safer, marketing stops being deceptive, and the gun industry will stop profiting off of loss of life."