Firearm marketing is a thing for those of us into guns, but for most of the world, it’s practically invisible. After all, you don’t see ads for Glock during your weekday television viewing unless you’re on a couple of particular channels. Your episode of Big Bang Theory doesn’t have a commercial from Walther interrupting it, nor do you see such things on any of the cable news programs.
About the only places you see marketing for firearms is in media focused around guns and the outdoors. Television networks dedicated to hunting and shooting, outdoor magazines and websites, things like that.
That’s probably for a number of reasons, but part of it is that a lot of other media just won’t let gun companies advertise anymore.
Yet even with so little marketing allowed to gun companies, they’re still finding themselves sued for what marketing they do have.
A gun control group has filed a lawsuit on behalf of victims and survivors of the 2019 synagogue mass shooting near San Diego, California, claiming they negligently and unlawfully designed and marketed the attacker’s assault rifle.
The 19-year-old gunman terrorized Chabad of Poway Synagogue on April 27 last year, killing one worshiper, and injuring three others with his Smith & Wesson Model M&P 15 Sport II semiautomatic rifle.
When confronted by members of the congregation[killer’s name redacted] fled then called the police admitting to committing a hate crime and was later apprehended.
The gun control group claims the company falsely associated the weapon with the military and law enforcement i ,[sic] marketing campaigns.
The Monday filing says the weapon was marketed in violation of California’s unfair business practices law, in order to make it attractive to customers who they claim like the shooter, are ‘young men predisposed to violence’.
I can’t help but believe all Smith & Wesson needs to do to counter this is show how a handful of departments actually use the M&P, and that’s assuming the marketing in question actually does link it to the police or the military.
I’m not 100 percent sure it does, though. The M&P line is a callback to a much earlier line of firearms that Smith & Wesson sold ages ago. I can’t say for certain, but I suspect the marketing in question is the name of the line, and frankly, I don’t know that the plaintiffs will have a leg to stand on.
However, while this particular lawsuit using a particular California law, it’s not the first lawsuit that tries to focus on the marketing of the firearm. Ever since a federal judge ruled that a lawsuit against Remington could continue–a lawsuit using this exact same kind of argument–we’ve seen a couple of these pop up.
The problem for me is that by suing companies for the actions of a third party by blaming the marketing for that product, you’re interfering with the First Amendment rights of an organization. It’s been found that companies have free speech rights as well (Citizens United) so they’re free to say what they want, with some parameters. They can’t lie about what a product can and can’t do, for example.
No one is saying that an M&P didn’t perform as advertised, they’re arguing that the advertising somehow led to a mass shooting, which is the most insane reasoning possible.
Still, we’re not going to see the last of this kind of nonsense for a while. Not until and unless these lawsuits are universally swatted down. Hard.