California judge says victims, family of fatal 2019 synagogue shooting can sue gunmaker

One worshiper was killed and three were wounded at the April 2019 Passover service in Poway, Calif.

Updated: July 9, 2021 - 9:47am

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

A California judge has ruled victims of the fatal 2019 synagogue shooting near San Diego can sue the weapon manufacturer and the gun shop that sold the semiautomatic rifle to the teenage gunman, according to a news report.

One worshiper was killed and three were wounded in the April 2019 Passover service in Poway, Calif.

Superior Court Judge Kenneth Medel said Wednesday the victims and families connected to the shooting have adequately alleged that gunmaker Smith & Wesson knew its AR-15-style rifle could be easily modified into a machine-gun-like or an assault weapon in violation of state law, according to the Associated Press.

A 2005 federal law shields gunmakers from damages in most cases for crimes committed with their weapons. But it allows lawsuits if the manufacturer was negligent or knowingly violated a state or federal law, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Thursday.

Medel said the plaintiffs may also be able to sue on their claims that Smith & Wesson negligently marketed the rifle to youths on social media and video game-style ads, the newspaper said.

The judge also said the shop, San Diego Guns, could be sued for selling the weapon to John Earnest, who was 19 and lacked a hunting license that would have exempted him from California’s 21-year minimum age for owning long guns, the wire service also reports.

Prosecutors say Earnest, a nursing student, opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle during the last day of the Passover services at the Chabad of Poway synagogue.

Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, who was wounded in the attack, was guest in 2019 of then-President Trump for the National Day of Prayer Service, at the White House.