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New Lawsuits Shed More Light on Daniel Defense’s AR-15 Marketing

The AR-15 maker allegedly reminded the Uvalde shooter that his rifle was waiting in his “shopping cart” before he turned 18

On May 24, 2024, the two-year mark of the Uvalde shooting, families of the victims filed two new lawsuits in Texas and California against several defendants for allegedly arming and training the mass shooter — including Daniel Defense, the AR-15 manufacturer that produced and sold the DDM4v7 rifle used by the shooter; Meta, which owns Instagram; and Activision, the company behind the Call of Duty video game series.

According to the new lawsuit filed in Texas against Daniel Defense, when the Uvalde shooter was still 17, he created an account on Daniel Defense’s website and added a DDM4v7, an AR-15-style rifle, to his virtual “shopping cart” but did not complete the sale. However, Daniel Defense allegedly emailed the shooter to ask if he was still “on the fence” and saying, “Your DDM4v7 is ready in your cart!” The email also contained a hyperlink to take the shooter back to his cart to complete the transaction on Daniel Defense’s website.

The lawsuit goes on to allege that because the shooter was 17 at the time, “[t]hat offer to sell was flatly illegal, and indeed a criminal offense under Texas law, which prohibits anyone from offering to sell a firearm to a minor under age eighteen.” Then, “[j]ust shy of three weeks later, and only twenty-three minutes after turning eighteen, the Shooter accepted the offer and paid for the weapon.”

more details emerge

Unlike larger gun makers who sell firearms through wholesalers and then dealers, Daniel Defense sells weapons directly to consumers through its website and, according to the complaint, does not “age gate” its customers or ensure they can legally purchase firearms. The complaint compares the company’s website to others that age gate in the gun industry, and notes that the Uvalde shooter was actually “prevented from purchasing over 1,500 rounds of ammunition on May 16, 2022 from” because that retailer prohibits sales to anyone under 21 and requires ID. When the shooter provided his ID showing that he was 18, canceled the order. Yet that same day, he was able to purchase 1,740 rounds of Hornady AR-15 ammunition from another online retailer, Optics Planet, that was shipped to his door.

Click here to read our report on underage ammo sales.

According to the complaint, “Age gates are far from perfect, but Daniel Defense’s decision not to include an age gate even to this day speaks volumes: adolescents younger than eighteen are among the target audience for the website.”

This lawsuit is the second directed at Daniel Defense for its marketing practices. In November 2022, Everytown Law filed a lawsuit on behalf of Uvalde victims alleging that “Daniel Defense used militaristic imagery to target vulnerable and violent young men and to suggest that civilian consumers can use Daniel Defense weapons the way service members are sometimes asked to: to engage in offensive combat missions directed at other humans. Daniel Defense furthered this message and sought out their target audience…by using various social media platforms and touting their association with popular video games like Call of Duty.”

The new lawsuit provides more details that appear to be pulled from phone records. The complaint alleges that from “December 29, 2021, until he carried out the shooting — a period of nearly five months — the Shooter repeatedly visited Daniel Defense’s website and was exposed to Daniel Defense’s internet advertising. He repeatedly viewed the DDM4v7 online. The Shooter visited Daniel Defense’s website so frequently that the Safari browser on his iPhone automatically created a bookmark for Daniel Defense’s website as a ‘frequently visited site.’” Further, the “cache in the Shooter’s phone contains numerous Daniel Defense marketing images for the DDM4v7 and other Daniel Defense firearms.”

daniel Defense Responds

Ironically, Daniel Defense posted a response from the company’s founder and chairman, Marty Daniel, on Instagram — a defendant in the second lawsuit announced Friday for allegedly providing a platform for the company and other gun makers to market assault weapons to teens. According to Daniel, “By attempting to hold our company liable for the criminal actions of an evil person, this lawsuit, like the ones filed before it, is yet another attempt to subvert [the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act] and put firearms manufacturers out of business. Daniel Defense is committed to vigorously defending against this baseless action because it is not only an affront to our company and values but also our law-abiding customers, employees, and everyday Americans protected by our products.”

Daniel also noted that his company carries out its mission, to “Honor God and Defend Freedom,” “by lawfully designing, manufacturing, and selling high-quality firearms” — primarily AR-15 and AR-10 assault weapons — “that enable good people to put food on their tables and effectively defend themselves and their families who seek to cause them harm.”

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