WEST BLOOMFIELD, Mich. (AP) — The parents of a teenager wounded during a mass shooting at Oxford High School in Michigan are suing the shop that sold the handgun used to kill four students and injure six other people.
The complaint filed Tuesday in federal court in Detroit on behalf of Matthew and Mary Mueller accuses Acme Shooting Goods LLC of negligently or unlawfully supplying the gun through a straw sale.
Authorities have said James Crumbley bought the 9 mm semiautomatic handgun used in the Nov. 30 shooting as an early Christmas gift for his son, Ethan, who was 15 at the time.
The lawsuit says Ethan accompanied his father to Acme Shooting Goods several days before the shooting and “engaged in behavior or made one or more statements while in the store which further indicated that the Acme gun was intended for” Ethan.
Acme Shooting Goods was obligated to train, supervise and monitor employees to identify and prevent so-called “straw purchases,” according to the lawsuit.
A straw purchase is when a person buys a gun to sell or give to someone prohibited from having one.
An employee at the gun shop in Oxford declined to comment on the lawsuit Wednesday.
The Muellers' son suffered gunshot wounds to a hand and his face. He was one of six students and one teacher wounded in the shooting at the school, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) north of Detroit.
Ethan Crumbley, now 16, has been charged as an adult with murder and terrorism and faces trial in January. James Crumbley and his wife, Jennifer, are accused of providing their son with access to the gun and are awaiting trial for involuntary manslaughter.
“Gun dealers, when they enter the business of selling guns, assume a duty to comply with all standards of reasonable care and all relevant state and/or federal firearms laws in order to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, juveniles and dangerous parties likely to misuse firearms,” the Muellers' lawsuit says.
A gun shop in Connecticut was named in a lawsuit against gunmaker Remington following the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, that killed 26 people, mostly children. Nancy Lanza bought the assault-style rifle used by her son, Adam Lanza, in the shooting.
The shop later was dropped from the lawsuit when a judge dismissed the complaint against Remington in 2016. The judge cited a federal law that shields gun-makers from liability in most cases. The Connecticut Supreme Court later reinstated the lawsuit against Remington on the issue of whether it should be held liable for how it marketed the Bushmaster rifle. In February, Remington and the Sandy Hook families agreed to a $73 million settlement of the case.
Remington, one of the nation’s oldest gun makers founded in 1816, filed for bankruptcy for a second time in 2020 and its assets were later sold off to several companies. The manufacturer was weighed down by lawsuits and retail sales restrictions following the school shooting.
The Muellers' lawsuit does not include a dollar amount for damages. It also names the Oxford Community School District, its former superintendent and other officials.
Other multimillion-dollar lawsuits filed after the shooting have said the violence was preventable.
The morning of the shooting, school officials met with Ethan Crumbley and his parents at the school after a teacher found a drawing of a gun, a bullet and a person who appeared to have been shot, along with messages stating, “My life is useless” and “The world is dead.”
The Crumbleys declined to take their son home and Ethan was allowed to remain in school. The gun was in his backpack, which was not searched.
“We are bringing this suit so that the failures both in the sale of this gun and at our school which allowed this to happen can never happen again,” Matthew and Mary Mueller said in a statement. "No family or community needs to experience this pain and no child should have to live with it for the rest of their life.”
This story has been corrected to show that Acme Shooting Goods is located in Oxford.
Corey Williams, The Associated Press