Uvalde families sue Meta and ‘Call of Duty’ maker on 2nd anniversary of school attack

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AUSTIN, Texas — Families in Uvalde took more legal action Friday on the second anniversary of the Robb Elementary School attack, suing Meta Platforms, which owns Instagram, and the maker of the video game Call of Duty over claims the companies bear responsibility for products used by the teenage gunman.

They also filed another lawsuit against Daniel Defense, which manufactured the AR-style rifle used in the May 24, 2022, shooting — and has already been sued.

It added to mounting lawsuits over the attack and came as the small Texas city gathered to mourn the anniversary of one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history. The gunman killed 19 students and two teachers. Officers finally confronted and shot him after waiting more than an hour to enter the fourth-grade classroom.

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

Some of the same families on Wednesday filed a $500 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 shooter 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 radicalizing or influencing mass shooters. 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 gun-maker Daniel Defense was filed in Texas by the same group of 19 families who sued on Wednesday. The lawsuit against Meta and Activision Blizzard — the maker of Call of Duty — were filed in California with additional families of victims from the attack.

Activision called the Uvalde shooting “horrendous and heartbreaking in every way, and we express our deepest sympathies to the families and communities who remain impacted by this senseless act of violence. Millions of people around the world enjoy video games without turning to horrific acts.”

A video game industry trade group also pushed back on blaming games for violence, arguing research has found no link.

“We are saddened and outraged by senseless acts of violence. At the same time, 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 Entertainment Software Association said.

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

According to the lawsuits, the Uvalde shooter had played versions of Call of Duty since he was 15, including one that allowed him to effectively practice with the version of the rifle he used at the school. The families also accused Instagram of doing little to enforce its rules that ban marketing firearms and harmful content to children.

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

“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’ attorneys said in a statement.

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

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

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 and class-action status for survivors. At least two other lawsuits have been filed against Daniel Defense.

In Uvalde, community members planned a vigil to remember those killed. Other events 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,” President Joe Biden said in a letter to the community. ___

This story has been updated to say that the gunman killed 19 students and two teachers.

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