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Uvalde Families Sue Activision, Meta, Manufacturer For Marketing AR-15 Style Gun To Shooter

The lawsuit alleges a pipeline of marketing and conditioning

Victoria Rose Updated: Posted:
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Several families whose children were killed in the Uvalde shooting have sued Meta and Call of Duty developer Activision, in a pair of lawsuits that also includes Daniel Defense, the manufacturer of the AR-15-style rifle used in the shooting, and Meta’s property Instagram. 

These lawsuits together claim that there was a chain of efforts through Call of Duty, Instagram, and Daniel Defense to motivate him to learn about and buy the gun less than half an hour after his 18th birthday. 

“[B]efore he was old enough to purchase it, he was targeted and cultivated online by Instagram, Activision and Daniel Defense,” reads a statement regarding the lawsuit, the attorney in charge of these suits. “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.” 

“[A]lthough the killing is virtual, the weapons are authentic — they are designed to perfectly imitate their real-life counterparts in look, feel, recoil and accuracy.” 

“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.” 

While Call of Duty is one of the few popular modern video games to actually feature an AR-15, the AR-15-style rifle has already taken a life of its own in modern gun control discourse. It’s an “assault-style” “semi-automatic rifle,” meaning, respectively per descriptor, that it was designed primarily for combat use, and that it can fire several bullets in small spurts from a larger magazine. 

Generally, semi-automatic weapons are relatively affordable and accessible, and most states don’t require extra licenses (besides general firearms handling, where applicable) to carry them so long as other laws are being followed. Statistically, handguns are the most common in shootings, though rifle shootings are becoming more common, especially as mass shootings rise, as noted by The Trace, an outlet dedicated to reporting on gun violence. 

With these factors, in America, AR-15-style guns become known as the face of these mass shootings. It has likely become a self-feeding cycle of infamy, as it’s been on the tip of every politician’s tongues on both sides of the aisle, and it’s still common yet in shootings such as Uvalde. 

It’s rare, though, for a private company not directly involved in the gun industry to be so directly implicated in this sort of ordeal, as usually, the remaining family will directly sue the manufacturers. Against manufacturers, there is some precedent through Koskoff himself, as Koskoff successfully led families of the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school shooting case to a settlement against manufacturer Remington in his home state of Connecticut. Meta’s other property Instagram, and its up-and-coming rival TikTok, face criticisms that their algorithms and advertising are harmful as influences to not only children, but wider culture in general. One ongoing lawsuit alleges much of the same regarding a racist shooting in Buffalo in 2022 by another 18-year-old. 

To the Activision point of this specific lawsuit, there’s little precedent to a case this heavy. However, video games have become a massive marketing subject given the size, scope, and spending power of its industry and market. There’s little conclusive evidence of the impact of video games on violent acts, but even Activision-Blizzard itself touts the power of in-game marketing

Plus, in the discovery phase of the aforementioned case against Remington, the manufacturer was found to have a secret deal with Activision to put a real rifle in its popular 2009 game, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. A lawsuit such as this will likely uncover other similar deals with Daniel Defense, if any exist. 

While we don’t know if any such deal exists at the moment, Daniel Defense has touted its DDM4V7S as being featured in the promotions for the 2019 release Call of Duty: Modern Warfare in a now-deleted Facebook post (via a request for investigation made by anti-gun violence organization Everytown), though the gun isn't actually in the game itself. Generally, game developers do avoid directly replicating gun designs for fear of copyright retribution. 

There’s no statement from Activision at the moment about these lawsuits. 

[Sources utilized: Texas Tribune, Reuters, ABC]


Victoria Rose

Victoria's been writing about games for over eight years, including small former tenures with Polygon and Fanbyte. She mostly spends time in FFXIV, head-deep in roleplay campaigns or stubbornly playing Black Mage through high-end raids. Former obsessions include Dota 2 and The Secret World (also mostly roleplaying). Come visit their estate: Diabolos (Crystal DC), Goblet, Ward 4, Plot 28.