Victims of Poway synagogue shooting can sue gunmaker

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In this Sunday, April 28, 2019 file photo, a San Diego county sheriff’s deputy stands in front of the Chabad of Poway synagogue, in Poway, Calif. A California judge on Wednesday, July 7, 2021 decided victims of the 2019 synagogue shooting near San Diego that killed one worshiper and wounded three can sue the manufacturer of the semiautomatic rifle and the gun shop that sold it to the teenage gunman, according to a newspaper report.(AP Photo/Denis Poroy, File)

SAN DIEGO (AP) — A California judge has decided victims of the 2019 synagogue shooting near San Diego that killed one worshiper can sue the manufacturer of the semiautomatic rifle and the gun shop that sold it to the teenage gunman.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports the judge found that victims and families proved their argument that Smith & Wesson knew its AR-15-style rifle could be easily modified into an assault weapon in violation of state law.

A federal law shields gunmakers from damages in most cases for crimes committed with their weapons. But it allows lawsuits if the manufacturer knowingly violated a state or federal law.

The man accused of killing a woman and injuring three others in an alleged hate crime shooting at the Chabad of Poway synagogue has entered into a conditional plea agreement in his federal case, though the offer still requires approval from the U.S. Attorney General, attorneys said.

John Timothy Earnest, a former Rancho Penasquitos resident and Cal State San Marcos nursing student, is accused of carrying out the shooting on the last day of Passover, fatally wounding 60-year-old Lori Gilbert Kaye, who was shot twice in the synagogue’s foyer. Kaye, a longtime member of Chabad of Poway, was at the temple with her husband and daughter to honor her mother, who had recently died.

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