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Gun control group files lawsuit on behalf of Poway Synagogue shooting victims

POWAY SYNAGOGUE memorial.jpeg
Posted at 9:21 PM, Jun 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-17 00:21:25-04

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A gun control group has filed a lawsuit on behalf of victims the Poway synagogue shooting against several parties, including the alleged shooter, his parents, the gun store that sold him the weapon used in the deadly shooting and the weapon's manufacturer, Smith & Wesson.

The suit filed Monday in San Diego Superior Court alleges `irresponsible and unlawful conduct by a firearms manufacturer and seller for making, marketing, or selling weapons in an unsafe and illegal manner'' in connection with the rifle allegedly used by John T. Earnest, 21, in the April 27, 2019, shooting at Chabad of Poway.

The suit filed by the gun control advocacy group Brady United accuses Smith & Wesson of failing to ``use reasonable care'' when marketing the rifle -- a Smith & Wesson M&P 15 -- and alleged the company made the weapon ``easily modifiable,'' which facilitates crimes like mass shootings.

The lawsuit also alleges gun store San Diego Guns unlawfully sold Earnest the rifle used in the shooting, as he lacked a valid hunting license to buy such as weapon at his age.

The suit also alleges Earnest's parents ``negligently facilitated their son's (the shooter's) ability to gain access to one or more pieces of weaponry/tactical equipment used in the incident, upon information and belief, having prior knowledge of his avowed, virulent anti-Semitism and propensity for violence.''

The shooting resulted in the death of 60-year-old Lori Gilbert Kaye, who was shot in the synagogue's foyer. Three others were injured, including the synagogue's rabbi, Yisroel Goldstein, who is among several people listed as plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

Earnest remains jailed on both state and federal charges for the shooting, as well as the alleged arson of an Escondido mosque, both of which are being charged as hate crimes.

Earnest allegedly told a dispatcher that he committed the shooting because Jewish people were destroying the white race and made similar anti-Semitic comments in an online manifesto in which he said he spent four weeks planning the attack.

Earnest faces the death penalty in the state's prosecution, while a federal capital punishment decision remains pending.

According to testimony, a receipt found in Earnest's car showed he purchased the rifle at San Diego Guns on April 13, 2019, the same day a California Fish and Wildlife card found in his bedroom showed he completed a hunting program, qualifying him for a hunting license.

However, the license -- which would allow someone in California under 21 to purchase a gun -- was not valid until that July. Without a valid license, Earnest would have been prohibited from purchasing the rifle under state law, as he was 19 at the time of the purchase.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife and Department of Justice are also named as defendants for alleged negligence in allowing Earnest to buy the gun when a background check should have precluded him from purchasing it.