Families of Uvalde school shooting victims sue Microsoft, Meta and gunmaker (2024)

Families of the victims killed in a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, have filed two wrongful death lawsuits: one against the firearm manufacturer and another against two technology companies, Meta and Microsoft, for their alleged role in marketing the weapon used.

Friday’s pair of lawsuits came on the second anniversary of the school shooting, one of the deadliest in United States history.

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The gunman, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, attacked Robb Elementary School on May 24, 2022, and killed 19 children and two teachers, leaving 17 more people injured.

The defendant in the first lawsuit, filed in the Uvalde County District Court, is Daniel Defense, a Georgia-based weapons manufacturer that produced the rifle the gunman used.

The second lawsuit, filed in the Los Angeles Superior Court, takes aim at Meta, owner of the social media platform Instagram, and the video game company Activision Blizzard, a subsidiary of Microsoft.

The complaint alleges that Activision’s first-person shooter game Call of Duty played a key role in shaping the gunman’s mindset.

It pointed out that the game bases its weapons on real-life models, and that the gunman played the game since he was 15 years old.

Call of Duty “creates a vividly realistic and addicting theater of violence in which teenage boys learn to kill with frightening skill and ease”, the lawsuit said.

That, in turn, led the attacker to seek out the gun he used in the video game as soon as he turned 18, according to the suit.

It also alleges that the gunman consumed pro-gun marketing on Instagram that reinforced the violent imagery he saw in the video game.

“Simultaneously, on Instagram, the shooter was being courted through explicit, aggressive marketing,” the families said in a statement.

“In addition to hundreds of images depicting and venerating the thrill of combat, Daniel Defense used Instagram to extol the illegal, murderous use of its weapons.”

The lawsuit accuses Instagram of failing to exercise adequate oversight over its platform, thereby allowing weapons sellers to have “an unsupervised channel to speak directly to minors, in their homes, at school, even in the middle of the night”.

In their statement, the families allege that Daniel Defense and the two technology companies together engaged in a “scheme that preys upon insecure, adolescent boys”.

“There is a direct line between the conduct of these companies and the Uvalde shooting,” said Josh Koskoff, a lawyer representing the families.

“This three-headed monster knowingly exposed him to the weapon, conditioned him to see it as a tool to solve his problems and trained him to use it.”

Koskoff’s firm, Koskoff Koskoff & Bieder, previously represented the families of victims killed in the 2012 school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, ultimately reaching a $73m settlement with gunmaker Remington in 2022.

Daniel Defense already faces other lawsuits related to the Uvalde shooting. In an appearance before the US Congress in 2022, the company’s CEO Marty Daniels denounced the attack as “pure evil”.

In a statement that same year, however, Daniels also called similar lawsuits against companies like his “frivolous” and “politically motivated”.

Activision has also condemned the Uvalde shooting, saying it was “horrendous and heartbreaking in every way”.

“We express our deepest sympathies to the families and communities who remain impacted by this senseless act of violence,” it said in a statement.

But, it added, “millions of people around the world enjoy video games without turning to horrific acts”.

A lobbying group for the video game industry, the Entertainment Software Association, also pointed out that people in other countries play video games without resorting to the levels of violence seen in the US.

“We are saddened and outraged by senseless acts of violence,” the group said in a statement.

“At the same time, we discourage baseless accusations linking these tragedies to video gameplay, which detract from efforts to focus on the root issues in question and safeguard against future tragedies.”

Gun ownership is a prominent part of US culture, with the Second Amendment of the country’s Constitution protecting the right to “keep and bear arms”.

Earlier this week, the families of the Uvalde victims reached a $2m settlement with the small Texas city, after the Department of Justice found “cascading failures” in how law enforcement responded to the shooting, due to training issues and communication problems.

A separate federal lawsuit was filed on Wednesday against the 100 state police officers involved in the response to the shooting.

Families of Uvalde school shooting victims sue Microsoft, Meta and gunmaker (2024)
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