On March 22, 2021, a gunman murdered 10 people at a King Soopers supermarket in Boulder, Colorado, including Suzanne Fountain. Now, her son is suing gun manufacturer Sturm, Ruger & Co. over how it marketed the firearm used in the massacre — claiming the company was complicit in the shooting.
The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in state court in Connecticut, which is home to Sturm, Ruger & Co. The plaintiff, Nathaniel Getz, says the company marketed it AR-556 pistol in a “reckless” and “immoral” way that promoted its killing capability.
Getz’s attorney, Andrew Garza, said he is the first relative of the 10 victims to file a lawsuit against the gun maker, following the playbook established by families of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims.
“We filed the lawsuit to both to seek justice for the family of the victim, but also to hold them accountable and to serve a preventative function as well, to protect future victims,” Garza told The Associated Press.
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“We believe they marketed it in a way that was meant to appeal to the militarization of young individuals, glorified lone shooters and, especially in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting, we think they had a moral responsibility to do better,” he said.
The lawsuit was filed days before the two-year anniversary of the shooting as well as days before the two-year statute of limitations to file such a suit in Connecticut expires. It seeks an undisclosed number of damages.
The Colorado shooter, 23-year-old Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, was charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder and 47 counts of attempted first-degree murder for opening fire on the grocery store and killing customers, store workers and a police officer who attempted to intervene in the attack. Alissa, who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, has been ruled incompetent to stand trial and is currently hospitalized in the state’s mental health hospital in Pueblo.
At a hearing on Jan. 27, doctors said Alissa may one day be able to stand trial with further treatment. Alissa’s next scheduled hearing is on April 28.
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Police said that Alissa legally purchased a Ruger AR-556 pistol six days before the shooting.
Gun manufacturers are generally shielded from liability for crimes committed with their products under a 2005 federal law known as the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.
However, there are exceptions. The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled in 2019 that gun-maker Remington could be sued under an exemption by Sandy Hook families over how it marketed its Bushmaster XM15-E2S rifle. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear Remington’s appeal of that ruling in 2019, and the company eventually settled with the families for $73 million.
Gun control advocates have held up that case as a roadmap for victims of mass shootings to sue firearm makers.
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Twenty first-graders and six staff members were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, on Dec. 14, 2012.
The families of nine victims and a survivor sued Remington, alleging that the company targeted at-risk males in advertising and product placement in violent video games. A Remington ad for its Bushmaster rifle called out in the lawsuit used the phrase: “Consider Your Man Card Reissued.”
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The lawsuit against Sturm, Ruger & Co. claims the company’s marketing materials included similar phrases such as “Anything else would be un-American.”
Getz also claims that Ruger designed its AR-556 pistol, which resembles an AR-15-style rifle, in such a way as to evade laws regulating rifles.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.