The 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas shocked the nation and renewed the debate on gun control. By easily modifying his AR-15 to discharge approximately nine rounds per second, gunman Stephen Paddock killed 58 people and injured hundreds in a matter of minutes.
That ability to modify to weapon is the linchpin in a wrongful death lawsuit filed this month by the parents of one of those victims against eight manufacturers of the AR-15.
According to federal law, most guns that can fire more than one shot with the press of the trigger are illegal. But one of the reasons why many experts view the AR-15 as so popular in mass shootings is that a user can easily add aftermarket accessories to make it more lethal.
Paddock used a “bump stock,” a product since banned by President Trump. It allowed him to hold his finger still while the gun bumped back and forth, firing more rounds.
The parents of Carrie Parsons and their lawyers assert that the makers of the AR-15 intentionally advertise the weapon as easy to modify.
“It was only a question of when - not if - a gunman would take advantage of the ease of modifying AR-15s to fire automatically in order to substantially increase the body count,” the lawsuit reads.
The general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a trade group for gun makers, said blame for the shooting lies solely with the shooter. The group also challenges the notion that a bump stock does not convert an AR-15 into a fully automatic weapon under the definition of the law.
Gun manufacturers enjoy broad protections from liability under the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act when someone uses their product to injure or kill. However, earlier this year the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that a lawsuit filed by parents of Sandy Hook Elementary students killed in a 2012 mass shooting against Remington can proceed. That lawsuit also accuses Remington of reckless marketing.
The Parsons family filed their wrongful death lawsuit in Nevada state court instead of federal court. It is likely at some point that the U.S. Supreme Court will be asked to take up either this case, the Sandy Hook case, or a combination of the two.