Parents of Vegas Massacre Victim Sue Gun Makers

Police officers stand at the scene of an Oct. 1, 2017, shooting near the Mandalay Bay resort and casino in Las Vegas. Multiple victims were being transported to hospitals after a shooting late Sunday at a music festival on the Strip. (AP Photo/John Locher)

(CN) – Fresh off a victory against Bushmaster in Connecticut, attorneys for victims of the Newtown school shooting brought a new lawsuit against companies whose assault rifles were used by a Las Vegas gunman two years ago at the Route 91 Harvest Musical Festival.

James and Ann-Marie Parsons, a Washington couple whose daughter Carrie was among the 58 people killed at the music festival, filed the wrongful-death suit Wednesday in the Nevada’s Eighth Judicial District Court.

“Someone has to stand up and tell gun companies that making a gun that can be so easily modified into a machine gun is not OK,” Ann-Marie said in a statement. “They need to know that they will be held accountable for their profiteering and for the devastation they wreak on innocent victims and their families. My husband and I are bringing this case so other families don’t have to go through the same agony that we’ve gone through.” 

On the night of the shooting, Oct. 1, 2017, Steven Paddock used his arsenal of a dozen modified AR-15s to fire 1,049 rounds at concertgoers from the seclusion of his hotel suite at the Mandalay Bay hotel and casino. He killed himself before authorities could apprehend him.

The Parsons’ daughter Carrie was 31 years old and planning her wedding when she was shot from behind in the shoulder. She had been in Las Vegas for a girls’ weekend, on her way home to Seattle after a business trip.

Josh Koskoff, an attorney for the Parsons who also represents victims of the Sandy Hook school shooting in Connecticut, said federal law prohibits weapons designed for automatic fire, including guns that can be modified to fire automatically.

Taking aim at Colt Manufacturing and seven other companies, the lawsuit alleges that the gunmakers knew of the automatic design and were fully aware of the ease with which users can engage the automatic capacity of the weapon through shooting techniques, simple toolwork or simple modifications, including the bump stocks used by Paddock.

“Colt knowingly designed the M4 Carbine with an easily removable stock and chose design features that made the M4 Carbine capable of automatic fire through simple modification,” the complaint states. 

No representative at Colt answered a phone call Wednesday, and the company did not offer a way for callers to leave a voicemail.

Speaking on behalf of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the group’s general counsel Lawrence G. Keane said meanwhile that the lawsuit has “no legal merit.”

Keane said it’s “a textbook example of why Congress, on a broad bipartisan basis, passed the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act in 2005.”

“The responsibility for the crimes committed on that tragic night in Las Vegas rest with the criminal who committed the violent and reprehensible acts,” Keane added. “It is wrong to blame the manufacturers of legal, non-defective products lawfully sold for the actions of a madman. Doing so would be like attempting to hold Ford responsible for a deranged criminal who affixes after-market parts to a Mustang and then misused that car to attack a group of pedestrians.”

Koskoff disagreed.

“Since 1934, federal law has reflected the one gun-related area that politicians, the public and even the NRA have historically agreed on: that automatic weapons – including weapons that can be easily modified to shoot automatically – are for the battlefield and pose too grave a threat to be sold to civilians,” Koskoff said. “AR-15s were designed to shoot automatically because that’s what the military needed. The capacity for automatic fire, which remains very much in the DNA of the ‘civilian’ AR-15s sold today, can be unlocked with the simplest of modifications. The result is the kind of large-scale devastation we saw in Las Vegas.” 

In March the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that a 2005 federal law called the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act “does not bar the plaintiffs from proceeding on the single, limited theory that the defendants violated CUTPA by marketing the XM15- E2S to civilians for criminal purposes, and that those wrongful marketing tactics caused or contributed to the Sandy Hook massacre.” 

As to the other causes of action, the court agreed with defendants that nothing under federal or state law prohibits the sale of a military-style weapon to the civilian population. 

Connecticut’s high court took up the case after a judge threw it out in 2016, finding that the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act shields gunmakers from liability when their firearms are used in crime.

In addition to the Bridgeport, Connecticut, law firm Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder, the Parsons are represented by Reno attorney Matthew Sharp and the law firm Friedman Rubin in Bremerton, Washington.

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