More than 60,000 gun safes were recalled nationwide on Thursday following dozens of reports that unauthorized people could open them, including a 12-year-old boy who died after allegedly accessing a gun inside, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced.
Illinois-based Fortress Safe recalled 61,000 gun safes after 39 reports that a flaw in the safes’ biometric feature made it seem like they were locked for unauthorized users, but actually remained in “default to open” mode. The recall urged safe owners to immediately stop using the biometric feature and to lock the safes with a key instead. It also told customers to contact Fortress Safe for information on how to receive a replacement safe.
“The safes contain a biometric reader that allows unpaired fingerprints to open the safe until a fingerprint is programmed, allowing unauthorized persons, including children, to access hazardous contents, including firearms,” the company said.
Fortress Safe said it was aware of a lawsuit filed this year alleging that a 12-year-old Nevada boy, Carson Preston, had died after accessing a gun from one of the company’s safes.
According to a copy of the lawsuit obtained by HuffPost, Casey Preston, Carson’s father, had purchased the model 44B20 Fortress gun safe in March 2021 from the sporting goods store Scheels.
On Jan. 28, the gun safe allegedly failed by allowing Carson, an unauthorized user, to access a handgun inside. According to the lawsuit, the safe was initially shipped in a state that allowed it to be opened with any fingerprint.
As a result, Carson sustained a “lethal gunshot wound to the head,” according to the lawsuit.
In a statement to HuffPost, Josh Dowling of Claggett & Sykes, the law firm representing the Preston family, said that “responsible gun owners should be able to rely on gun safes to protect their families.”
“Our clients experienced every parent’s worst nightmare when their son was able to access their firearm because of the defective design of the Fortress gun safe,” Dowling said. “This recall is an important first step in holding Fortress responsible for placing a defective gun safe on the market. This recall reassures our clients that this was not their fault, and we hope it will prevent this type of tragedy from happening again.”
The lawsuit also claims that Scheels had received reports and complaints from customers and individuals who said the gun safe was defective, but that the retailer continued to sell and advertise it.
According to court documents obtained by HuffPost, Scheels denied those allegations, adding that the gun safe was “not in an unreasonably dangerous or defective condition” when it was sold. The company has filed a counterclaim against the Preston family, alleging that the child’s parents may be responsible for his death, and is seeking damages of more than $15,000 as well as attorneys’ fees.
A representative for Scheels did not respond to HuffPost’s request for comment. Fortress Safe declined to comment.