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A victim of the Brooklyn subway shooting is suing the gun maker Glock

Members of the New York Police Department patrol the streets after a rush-hour shooting at a subway station in Brooklyn on April 12.
Timothy A. Clary
AFP via Getty Images
Members of the New York Police Department patrol the streets after a rush-hour shooting at a subway station in Brooklyn on April 12.

Ilene Steur, who was injured in the shooting attack on the New York City subway in April, is suing gun manufacturer Glock over its marketing practices and distribution strategy that she says allowed the suspect to acquire one of the company's products.

The lawsuit comes shortly after two other recent mass shootings — one at a grocery store in Buffalo, N.Y., and another at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas — that have renewed calls for stricter gun control measures in the U.S.

Filed in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of New York, Steur's suit names Georgia-based Glock Inc. as well as its Austrian parent company, Glock Ges.m.b.H, as defendants.

The 49-year-old Brooklyn resident was riding the subway on her way to work on April 12 when suspected shooter Frank James allegedly deployed two smoke grenades inside the train car and began firing.

Ten people were shot in the attack, including Steur, who suffered "serious and permanent personal injuries" that left her unable to perform normal activities, the lawsuit says.

"I always see on the news about people — innocent people — getting shot, and my heart goes out to the victims and their families. I never thought I would be one of those victims," Steur said in a statement her attorneys provided to NPR.

"There has got to be better control of who gets their hands on these guns," she added.

James was arrested one day after the shooting and was charged in federal court.

The lawsuit takes aim at Glock's marketing practices

In the late 1980s, Glock began to sell its weapons in the U.S. and market them to police departments, according to the suit. The company's lightweight and high-capacity semi-automatic pistol provided an alternative to the six-round revolvers that were being used by many law enforcement agencies at the time.

But the lawsuit claims that Glock has intentionally produced and sold more guns than legitimate buyers need, creating a secondary market where its firearms are being resold in places such as pawn shops.

James bought the Glock pistol he used in the attack in a pawn shop in Columbus, Ohio, in 2011, Fox News reported.

"Defendants are aware that by over-saturating the market with guns, the guns will go to the secondary markets that serve purchasers with a criminal intent, such as James," the lawsuit says.

When advertising its guns, Glock touts features such as their large capacities and ease of concealment, which the lawsuit claims appeal to prospective buyers with criminal intent. The appearance of Glocks in movies and TV shows as well as rap lyrics have also helped boost sales, the lawsuit suggests.

In the meantime, Glock hasn't done enough to prevent its guns from being sold on the secondary market, such as by ending contracts with distributors who "sold to dealers with disproportionately high volumes of guns traced to crime scenes" or training dealers to avoid illegal transactions, the suit claims.

Glock did not immediately respond to NPR's request for comment.

How attorneys plan to get around the gun industry's broad immunity

The lawsuit specifically cites a New York law signed last year by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo that allows gun companies to be held liable for creating a "public nuisance" if they endanger the health and safety of residents.

The attorneys representing Steur suggest the law provides an end-run around the broad immunity gun manufacturers and dealers enjoy from liability for crimes committed using their products.

"The New York state law is a law which we believe creates a cut-out so that the immunity which is given to the gun industry would not apply in cases in which the gun manufacturers create a public nuisance as a result of their marketing efforts," attorney Sanford Rubenstein told NPR.

The attorneys said they could file claims under the law in state or federal court.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Joe Hernandez
[Copyright 2024 NPR]