Chabad of Poway congregants speak with a police officer after the shootings. Photo by Chris Stone

Victims and survivors of the 2019 shootings at Chabad of Poway can sue Smith & Wesson, maker of the AR-15 rifle used in the hate crime, a San Diego state judge has ruled.

Superior Court Judge Kenneth Medel on Wednesday rejected Smith & Wesson’s argument that the suit was barred by a federal law that generally shields gun manufacturers and sellers from being sued over shootings.

San Diego Guns, the store that sold the gun, is also a defendant in the case.

“Today’s judgment is a victory, and an important step on the road to justice for the victims of the shooting at Chabad of Poway Synagogue, and all Americans who believe that the gun industry is not above the law,” said Jonathan Lowy, a lawyer with the nonprofit Brady Alliance that seeks to stop gun violence.

The lawsuit, filed in 2020, alleges the manufacturer violated state law by designing the rifle to be easily modified into a rapid-firing assault weapon to appeal to “impulsive young men.”

John T. Earnest, the 19-year-old accused of killing one worshipper and wounding three others in a shooting spree on April 27, 2019, potentially faces the death penalty.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.