A favorite tactic from back in the day was for anti-gunners to pressure the families of shooting victims to file a lawsuit against gun manufacturers. They figured that if they could bog the gun companies down in enough lawsuits, then eventually they would shut down.
Luckily, Congress intervened and put an end to the practice by passing the Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. The act ended lawsuits for what people do with firearms after they were sold, but didn’t prevent lawsuits that focused on mistakes made by the manufacturers. In particular, things like flaws in the manufacturing of a firearm.
Yet, it seems that loophole–one that should exist–has been latched onto by a new breed of lawsuits. These seek to go after companies over their marketing.
The latest to try it is the ever-annoying Fred Guttenberg.
The father of a mass shooting victim and two gun safety groups petitioned the federal government on Sunday to stop the firearms manufacturer Smith & Wesson from using what they described as “deceptive and unfair” marketing to promote assault-style rifles.
The father, Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter, Jaime, died in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre in Parkland, Fla., joined with the advocacy groups Brady and Everytown for Gun Safety to send a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission.
As part of the complaint, Mr. Guttenberg and the gun control groups said that Smith & Wesson mimicked first-person-shooter video games in its advertising materials to attract adolescents and young adults. They added that the marketing of the company’s AR-15-style guns “attracts, encourages and facilitates mass shooters” and “played a significant role” in the Parkland shooting, according to the complaint.
Smith & Wesson didn’t immediately respond.
Smith & Wesson is the maker of the M&P15 .223 rifle used by the 19-year-old shooter in the 2018 Parkland massacre. The complaint urged the federal agency to investigate the company and to require that it include warnings in some of its marketing materials.
This is likely based on a lawsuit against Remington over the marketing the company had for their rifles, one of which was used in the Sandy Hook massacre.
However, just as with that case, this one is really nothing more than an attack on a company’s freedom of speech.
Advertising materials are speech. So long as they’re not fraudulent, they have the right to say what they wish in that marketing or use whatever methods they can to attract attention to their products. That’s especially important with firearms because there are relatively few places where they can market their products.
While Smith & Wesson’s marketing may have replicated the look of a first-person shooter video game, the advertisement didn’t have the shooter hurting innocent people. Further, there’s no evidence I’m aware of that the Parkland killer ever saw any firearms advertisements, much less this one. More than likely, he bought what he could afford and what was in stock.
Yet Guttenberg doesn’t care about that. He’s angry that his daughter is gone, which I understand completely. I can’t even fathom my little girl being taken away from me like that.
What Guttenberg doesn’t get a pass on, though, is his continuing efforts to infringe on people’s liberty. Taking guns away from the rest of us won’t bring his daughter back. It won’t even stop the next mass shooting. Neither will going after Smith & Wesson because you don’t like how they market their guns.
All it’s going to do is make him an annoyance that isn’t worth listening to by anyone who doesn’t already agree with him.