Family Of Las Vegas Victim Brings Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against Gun Companies

Originally published on August 13, 2019 1:38 pm

The family of a victim of the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting has filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Nevada against gun manufacturers that sell AR-15 style rifles.

The shooting, which took place on Oct. 1, 2017, during a music festival, left 851 people injured and 59 dead, including the perpetrator. The incident is the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

Attorney Josh Koskoff represents the family of Carrie Parsons, 31, who was among those who were killed in the shooting. Koskoff says that AR-15 style rifles, like the one used in the Las Vegas shooting, are one simple modification away from acting as an automatic weapon — a weapon that fires bullets continuously when the trigger is held down.

While not illegal, automatic weapons are heavily regulated in the United States and are relatively rare in the civilian world. AR-15 style rifles are semi-automatic, meaning they fire one shot per trigger pull but automatically reload between shots.

The Las Vegas gunman used a bump stock to rapidly fire his rifle, but Koskoff says there are multiple ways to achieve rapid fire with that type of gun.

After the shooting, bump stocks attracted attention from politicians, state legislators and even President Donald Trump, whose administration announced a ban on the devices in December 2018.

Koskoff says the fact that the guns can be modified so easily should make them illegal and make the companies that produce them liable.

“The civilian version of this rifle retains that DNA of an automatic rifle,” Koskoff said, “and what we’re saying is that that DNA, the automatic fire, can be easily animated by simple modifications.”

Historically, federal law has largely protected gun companies from liability in many lawsuits. A 2005 law called the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) shields manufacturers and retailers from civil liability in lawsuits brought by victims of gun violence. If a suit is ruled against a gun manufacturer and in favor of a victim of gun violence, it could set a legal precedent and expose manufacturers to similar suits.

Colt’s Manufacturing Co., the West Hartford, Connecticut-based maker of an AR-15 style rifle used in the Las Vegas shooting, is listed as the lead defendant in the wrongful death suit. The company declined to comment for this story.

Koskoff, a Connecticut-based lawyer, also represents the families of victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting who are suing Remington Arms, the manufacturer of the rifle used by the shooter in that shooting. In March, the Connecticut Supreme Court allowed that case to move forward, despite protections offered to gun manufacturers by federal law.

Guns & America is a public media reporting project on the role of guns in American life.


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