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Nevada court rules gun-makers not liable for Las Vegas shooting deaths

Updated December 3, 2021 - 11:47 am

The Nevada Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that gun manufacturers cannot be held responsible under state law for the deaths caused in the Route 91 Harvest festival massacre.

The parents of Carrie Parsons, a Seattle woman killed in the Oct. 1, 2017, mass shooting, sued gun-makers, accusing them of skirting federal and Nevada law by creating and selling weapons that could easily be modified to shoot automatic fire.

In the unanimous opinion authored by Justice Kristina Pickering, the justices wrote that Nevada law does not allow for gun manufacturers to be found negligent and held responsible for wrongful death, even if someone uses a weapon that was illegally produced.

“We in no way underestimate the profound public policy issues presented or the horrific tragedy the Route 91 Harvest Festival mass shooting inflicted,” Pickering wrote in the opinion. “But this is an area the Legislature has occupied extensively.”

The justices said the law could be changed by lawmakers but not the court.

“We urge the Legislature to act if it did not mean to provide immunity in situations like this one,” Pickering wrote.

The complaint against Colt’s Manufacturing and seven other businesses, which centered on historical gun laws and a federal ban on machine guns, alleged that the companies continually chose “profits over public safety,” making rifles that could be modified “within minutes, if not seconds” without any technical expertise.

Attorney Matthew Sharp, who represents the Parsons family, called the decision “unfortunate and at odds with fundamental safety and fairness.”

“Under today’s ruling, a gun manufacturer or distributor has complete immunity even if it knowingly and intentionally violates federal and state law by engaging in the illegal sale of a machine gun with knowledge that it will be used to inflict harm upon innocent people,” he wrote in a statement.

Lawyers for Colt’s Manufacturing did not immediately return request for comment on Thursday.

The gunman in the Route 91 shooting used a bump stock attachment on semiautomatic weapons to increase the firing capacity of the rifles he fired from his suite on the 32nd floor of Mandalay Bay at thousands of people across the Las Vegas Strip attending the outdoor country music festival.

The shooting initially left 58 concertgoers dead and hundreds more injured. Two additional victims died of their injuries more than two years after the shooting.

In May 2020, U.S. District Judge Andrew Gordon ruled that the Nevada Supreme Court should address the suit against the gun manufacturers.

Gordon wrote that he was “particularly concerned” by the gun-makers’ interpretation of a law that would “immunize even a defendant that manufactured and sold Tommy guns or M-16 rifles to civilians.”

In September, Nevada Democratic Rep. Dina Titus introduced a federal bill to regulate and ban bump stocks.

After the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives tried to ban bump stocks by regulation, requiring existing bump stocks to be destroyed. However, the rule was put on hold after the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the regulation likely was unconstitutional.

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Contact Katelyn Newberg at knewberg@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0240. Follow @k_newberg on Twitter.

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