Families of school shooting victims sue three companies they claim helped ‘train gunman’


The families of some of the victims of the Uvalde school shooting have announced new legal action against three companies they say effectively helped to “train” the gunman to carry out the attack.

Legal action against Instagram parent company Meta Platforms, the maker of the video game series Call Of Duty and the company that made the gun used in the May 2022 shooting was announced on the two-year anniversary of the attack in Texas in the US.

Salvador Ramos, 18, killed 19 students and two teachers at Robb Elementary School on 24 May 2022.

The new legal cases accuse the companies of partnering to promote and create content designed to glorify combat, gun violence and killing.

Memorial crosses stand in front of Robb Elementary School, as U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announces the results of a review into the law enforcement response to a 2022 mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, U.S., January 18, 2024. REUTERS/Kaylee Greenlee Beal
Pic: Reuters

Josh Koskoff, a lawyer for the families, called the companies a “three-headed monster” that “knowingly exposed [the gunman] to the weapon, conditioned him to see it as a tool to solve his problems and trained him to use it”.

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

According to the lawsuits, Ramos 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.

It claimed the company created a “hyperrealistic” 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”.

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‘Failures’ in Uvalde school shooting

The legal action claims Instagram does little to enforce rules that ban marketing firearms and harmful content to children.

It also accuses gunmakers Daniel Defense of using the social media platform to help “extol the illegal, murderous use of its weapons”.

Some of the same families also filed a $500m (£392m) lawsuit against Texas state police officials and officers who responded to the shooting but waited more than an hour to confront Ramos inside the classroom as students and teachers lay dead, dying or wounded.

‘Baseless accusations’

Call Of Duty makers, Activision, called the shooting “horrendous and heartbreaking in every way”.

The company added its “deepest sympathies” for the “families and communities who remain impacted by this senseless act of violence”.

But it added: “Millions of people around the world enjoy video games without turning to horrific acts.”

Activision's Call Of Duty on sale at Best Buy in Mountain View, Calif., Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2011. Video game publisher Activision Blizzard Inc. said Wednesday that its second-quarter net income grew, boosted by strong demand for digital offerings such as downloadable content for its popular "Call of Duty" games. Activision earned $335 million, or 29 cents per share, in the April-June period. That's up 53 percent from $219 million, or 17 cents per share, in the same period a year earlier. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
Activision called the shooting ‘horrendous and heartbreaking in every way’. Pic: AP

The Entertainment Software Association – a video game industry trade group – also said it was “outraged by senseless acts of violence” but pushed back on blaming games for violence, arguing research has found no link.

“We discourage baseless accusations linking these tragedies to video gameplay, which detract from efforts to focus on the root issues in question and safeguard against future tragedies,” the group said.

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Robb Elementary shooting survivors Amy Franco, left, Arnulfo "Arnie" Reyes, center, stand with other survivors and community members at the town square on Friday morning, May 24, 2024, in Uvalde, Texas. The former Robb Elementary School educators waved orange flags signifying gun violence awareness to commemorate the 21 victims of the shooting ... 19 fourth-graders and two teachers ... who died two years ago Friday. (Sam Owens/The San Antonio Express-News via AP)
Survivors and community members at Uvalde town square on Friday morning. Pic: AP

Daniel Defense and Meta did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The Associated Press.

This is not the first legal action to be brought over the shooting.

In December 2022, a group of different plaintiffs filed a separate lawsuit against local and state police, the city, and other school and law enforcement, which seeks at least $27bn (£21bn) and class-action status for survivors.

At least two other lawsuits have also been filed against Daniel Defense.

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To mark the two-year anniversary of the shooting, community members in Uvalde planned a vigil for those killed.

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

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