Families of Uvalde victims sue Meta, video game maker and gun firm

24 May 2024, 22:34

Uvalde Shooting-Anniversary
Uvalde Shooting-Anniversary. Picture: PA

The lawsuits against Meta, Activision and Daniel Defense were announced on the two-year anniversary of the attack on Robb Elementary School in Texas.

The families of 19 victims of the Uvalde school shooting announced new lawsuits on Friday against Instagram parent company Meta Platforms, the maker of the video game Call Of Duty and the gun company that made the assault rifle used in the shooting in Texas.

The lawsuits against Meta, Activision and Daniel Defense were announced on the two-year anniversary of the attack on Robb Elementary School.

They accuse the companies of partnering to promote and create content designed to glorify combat, gun violence and killing that effectively trained the teenage gunman before he killed 19 students and two teachers in one of the deadliest school shooting in US history.

“There is a direct line between the conduct of these companies and the Uvalde shooting,” said Josh Koskoff, a lawyer for the families.

“This three-headed monster knowingly exposed him to the weapon, conditioned him to see it as a tool to solve his problems and trained him to use it.”

The same group of families on Wednesday filed a 500-million-dollar (£392 million) lawsuit against Texas state police officials and officers who were part of the botched law enforcement response that day.

More than 370 federal, state and local officers responded but waited more than an hour to confront the gunman, former student Salvador Ramos, inside the classroom as students and teaches lay dead, dying or wounded.

Friday’s lawsuits are not the first to accuse technology companies of having a role in radicalising or influencing mass shootings. Families of victims in a May 2022 attack on a Buffalo, New York, supermarket sued social media companies, including Meta and Instagram, over content on their platforms.

The lawsuit against Georgia-based Daniel Defense was filed in Texas. The lawsuit against the Meta and Activision was to be filed in California.

Uvalde Shooting Anniversary
Arnulfo ‘Arnie’ Reyes, a survivor of the mass shooting, talks to reporters on Friday (Sam Owens/The San Antonio Express-News via AP)

The amount of damages sought in the new lawsuits was not immediately clear.

According to the lawsuits, the Uvalde attacker had played versions of Call Of Duty since he was 15, including one that allowed him to effectively practise with the version of the rifle he used at the school.

The lawsuit against the game company said it has created a hyper-realistic game where “although the killing is virtual, the weapons are authentic — they are designed to perfectly imitate their real-life counterparts in look, feel, recoil and accuracy”.

Instagram does little to enforce its rules rules that ban marketing firearms and harmful content to children, the lawsuit said.

The gun company scored a “marketing coup” with its weapons featured in the game, the lawyers for the family said.

“Simultaneously, on Instagram, the shooter was being courted through explicit, aggressive marketing. In addition to hundreds of images depicting and venerating the thrill of combat, Daniel Defense used Instagram to extol the illegal, murderous use of its weapons,” the families’ lawyers said in a statement.

The Uvalde gunman opened an online account with Daniel Defense before his 18th birthday, and purchased the rifle as soon as he could, the lawsuit said.

A separate lawsuit filed by different plaintiffs in December 2022 against local and state police, the city, and other school and law enforcement, seeks at least 27 billion dollars (£21 billion) and class-action status for survivors. At least two other lawsuits have been filed against Daniel Defense.

Daniel Defense, Meta and Activision each did not immediately respond to emails requesting comment.

In a congressional hearing in 2022, Daniel Defense chief executive Marty Daniels called the Uvalde shooting and others like it “pure evil” and “deeply disturbing”.

In Uvalde, community members are set to gather Friday evening at a vigil to remember those killed. Other events have included a bell ringing and butterfly release at a local church.

“As we mark this solemn day, may we pray for those we lost, their loved ones, and all those who were wounded,” US President Joe Biden said in a letter to the community.

“They should still be with us — playing sports, creating art, dancing, laughing, learning, teaching, and making new memories with their families and friends,” Vice President Kamala Harris said in a statement.

“Today, we are remembering their stories, standing with their loved ones, and thinking of their community.”

By Press Association

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