Ilene Steur was about halfway through her morning drive to her real estate job when smoke suddenly started to fill her subway, a man sitting one chair away started firing, and she was hit by a bullet in the buttocks.
She was seriously injured in the April 12 attack, one of 30 people injured in the shooting of an N train that shook New York and was the city’s worst public transit crime in decades.
On Tuesday, Mrs. Sturge, 49, is filing a federal lawsuit in Brooklyn, arguing that the manufacturer of the firearm used in the attack should be held liable for the chaos that unfolded in the Sunset Park neighborhood.
The lawsuit accuses Glock, one of the country’s largest arms makers, of improperly marketing its firearms, emphasizing their high capacity, easy concealment and other features that “appeal buyers with criminal intent.” The company, headquartered in Austria, has also failed to “apply the most basic policies and practices” to prevent firearms from falling into the wrong hands, the lawsuit alleges.
“Weapons manufacturers don’t live in a bubble,” said Mark D. Shirian, one of Ms. Steur’s attorneys. “They are aware that their marketing strategies empower buyers with malicious intent and endanger the lives of innocent people. This lawsuit is intended to hold the arms industry accountable.”
The arms manufacturer did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the matter on Tuesday. But Glock executives have defended the company’s sales policies before.
The lawsuit comes as the gun industry comes under renewed scrutiny from politicians and the public after high-profile mass shootings this month in Buffalo, where 10 people were killed in a supermarket, and Uvalde, Tex., the site of the deadliest school massacre since the murders. at Sandy Hook in 2012.
In New York, Governor Kathy Hochul has sought to tighten the state’s relatively strict gun laws, calling on lawmakers to raise the minimum age for purchasing AR-15-style guns from 18 to 21. Lawmakers have a separate, first-of-its-kind law passed last year that allowed for civil lawsuits against gun manufacturers and dealers for improper marketing or sales.
Tuesday’s filing fell under those provisions, which classified the bad practices of companies as a nuisance threatening public safety. The argument allowed by law aims to circumvent a 2005 federal measure that grants firearms companies far-reaching immunity from prosecution by victims and their relatives.
New York law was vigorously challenged by the arms industry. Companies and organizations including Glock, Smith & Wesson and the National Shooting Sports Foundation argued in a December lawsuit that the new law was unconstitutional and too vague.
A federal district judge in Albany last week dismissed their case, writing that “a state statute establishing liability for improper sale or marketing of firearms does not impede any congressional purpose” of the 2005 law.
Steur’s lawsuit, first reported by the New York Daily News, alleges that Glock endangered public safety by recklessly marketing weapons through advertisements and placement in movies and other entertainment.
Frank R. James, the man accused of committing a terrorist attack on a public transit system, had used a 9-millimeter handgun called a Glock 17, which he bought legally in 2011 in Columbus, Ohio, federal prosecutors said. The gun jammed after firing 33 shots, and no one died.
Glock’s firearms began proliferating in the United States around the late 1980s and were soon adopted as a weapon by the police because of their ease of use. But Ms. Steur’s lawyers said the company was deliberately beginning to oversaturate the market, over-offering law enforcement. The manufacturer then encouraged police to trade in newer guns and resell the old ones at a higher price through pawnshops and other small dealers.
They said that while federal officials have provided the manufacturer with names of distributors who have sold weapons used in crimes, the company “ignored the information” and maintained the same approach to marketing and distribution.
The lawsuit resembles another that relatives of Sandy Hook victims filed against Remington, who manufactured the AR-15-style Bushmaster rifle used in that massacre. They argued that the company’s marketing of the weapon was to target troubled young men, in violation of Connecticut consumer law. That case was settled in February for $73 million, the largest and most significant deal since the 2005 legal shield was put in place.
Steur’s attorney, Sanford Rubenstein, said Tuesday that at a time when mass shootings continue and gun violence in many cities is still elevated from prepandemic levels, “those who manufacture and distribute weapons have a moral responsibility” to address the problem. help solve.
James, 62, pleaded not guilty in federal court this month. James, who is being held without bail at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, could face life in prison if convicted of terrorism. He also faces a separate charge for using the firearm, which carries a minimum sentence of 10 years.
Ms. Sturgeon was shot in the buttocks during the attack, causing a fracture in her sacrum, a flat, triangular bone at the base of the spine. Seven weeks later, her lawyers said she was still receiving psychological help. She told the Daily News that she is afraid of returning to the transit system and is concerned about staying in New York.
Her physical recovery will also be a lengthy process. She has tried working from home “because it takes her mind off her injuries,” her lawyers said, but she is unable to leave her home for the most part. She also needs an ostomy bag and has yet to undergo colon surgery.
In a statement, Ms Steur said the attack “changed my life forever — physically, mentally and emotionally.”
She added: “There needs to be better control over who gets their hands on these weapons.”