A gun owner is alleging that New Hampshire-based Sig Sauer, one of the country’s largest gun makers, sold hundreds of thousands of faulty pistols that could fire without pulling the trigger.
The plaintiff, Dante Gordon, filed a lawsuit in federal court in Texas last month claiming that Sig Sauer's P320 handgun is an “unreasonably dangerous” weapon because of its risk of so-called drop fire.
The gun at the center of the case is the same one that Sig Sauer supplies to the U.S. Army as part of a $580 million contract. According to the lawsuit, the Army first discovered the risk of potential discharge of the weapon when dropped in April 2016, while the weapon was being considered as the new standard issue sidearm for all U.S. soldiers. The suit alleges that Sig Sauer made necessarily modifications to the military version of the P320, which went on to win the lucrative Army contract.
However, Sig Sauer allegedly continued to sell a potentially unsafe civilian version of the P320 for an additional 16 months. The company promoted the weapon using the slogan “Safety Without Compromise,” and stated in marketing materials that the P320 “won’t fire unless you want it to.”
In August 2017, online gun seller Omaha Outdoors published a video detailing its concerns about the P320’s “extremely rare but still possible” potential for discharging when dropped. The next day, Sig Sauer, which is headquartered in Newington, N.H., announced that it was offering a “voluntary upgrade” for the P320, which would retrofit the guns with a different trigger and other components.
Sig Sauer’s response to the drop issue was the subject of a CNN investigation published in May 2018. The company’s website continues to state that the P-320 “meets and exceeds all U.S. safety standards. However, mechanical safeties are designed to augment, not replace safe handling practices. Careless and improper handling of any firearm can result in an unintentional discharge.”
In his suit, Gordon says he wasn’t physically injured by his pistol. He’s seeking class action status to represent all purchasers of the P320, claiming the company has harmed them by failing to disclose its knowledge of the P320’s potential defect.
Sig Sauer didn’t respond to a request for comment, and the company has yet to file a response in court. Lawyers for Gordon also didn’t respond to inquiries.
Multiple Claims of Injuries From Misfire
Concerns over the safety of the P320 prompted multiple police departments to issue warnings about the weapon. The lawsuit highlights that at least three public safety officials have been injured after unintentional discharges of the P320.
In 2017, a Stamford, Conn., police officer was shot in the left leg when his P320 allegedly fired after falling to the ground. Sig Sauer settled a civil case with the officer for an unknown amount.
In Orlando, a SWAT team officer dropped a holstered P320, resulting in a gun shot wound to his leg.
Sig Sauer is continuing to litigate a $10 million lawsuit filed by a deputy in the Loudon County Sheriff’s Office in Virginia, who was severely injured when a P320 discharged. The officer claims she was shot while removing the holstered weapon without pulling the trigger.
It isn’t clear how many model P320 pistols Sig Sauer has sold, though the lawsuit claims as many as 500,000 defective P320s remain in circulation. It also isn’t known how many customers have taken up the company’s offer of a fix.
Flawed Firearms, Financial Impacts
Sig Sauer’s parent company, which is headquartered in Germany, released a financial filing earlier this year that states its earnings in 2017 were down more than $35 million due to a “voluntary product recall” in the United States.
Last year, gun maker Remington Arms reached a settlement in a class action suit involving trigger issues with its long-popular Model 700 rifle. As a result, Remington gun owners can have their weapon retrofitted with a new part.
Court settlements like this are necessary in the case of faulty firearms, in large part because of a lack of strict consumer protection regulations in the gun industry, said Eric Holland, who served as co-lead counsel in the Remington case.
“When you have a defect in a vehicle, you have a federal agency that can step in and mandate recall," Holland said. "There’s no such agency with regard to guns in the United States."
He says an estimated 30,000 weapons have been upgraded as a result of the Remington class action suit.
“I’m very satisfied with the outcome, because if we’ve saved one life, what’s the value of that?" Holland said. "What about ten? What about 100? It is very likely that we had that kind of an impact.”