The family of one of the victims of the deadliest mass shooting in the history of our country is suing companies that manufacture and sell AR-15 style rifles. That was the weapon used by the gunman who killed 58 people and injured over 850 more on Oct. 1, 2017, at a Las Vegas music festival. The lead defendant is Colt’s Manufacturing Co., which made the weapon used in that shooting.
AR-15 style rifles are considered semi-automatic weapons. They aren’t as strictly regulated as automatic ones. They’re considered “semi-automatic” because you have to pull the trigger each time you shoot a bullet. However, they reload automatically after each shot. Automatic weapons, on the other hand, fire continuously as long as the trigger is held down.
The attorney for the plaintiffs notes, however, that by adding a bump stock to these semi-automatic rifles, as the Las Vegas gunman did, it essentially becomes an automatic weapon. The attorney notes, “The civilian version of this rifle retains that DNA of an automatic rifle, and what we’re saying is that that DNA, the automatic fire can be easily animated by simple modifications.”
Bump stocks were banned in December of last year. However, the plaintiffs’ attorney notes that there are other simple modifications to AR-15 style rifles that allow a continuous firing of bullets. Therefore, he says, the companies that make and sell them should be liable for the harm they can do and the weapons should be illegal.
The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), enacted in 2005, protects gun manufacturers and retailers from civil suits brought by victims of gun violence and their families. However, the attorney who’s representing the family of the Las Vegas shooting victim is also representing families of those killed in the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012. The rifle used in that shooting was made by Remington Arms, which is the defendant. That case has been allowed to move forward by the Connecticut Supreme Court.
If the plaintiffs win in either of these cases, it would be the first time a gun manufacturer was successfully held liable for harm that was intentionally caused by a shooter.
There’s no doubt that firearms can cause severe and often fatal injuries. Whether you’re dealing with an accidental discharge, a defective weapon or an intentional shooting, an experienced attorney can provide valuable guidance.