The state’s supreme court noted that state law shields firearms manufacturers from liability except when their products malfunction.
The Supreme Court of Nevada has found that firearm manufacturers cannot be held responsible for the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, because a state law shields gun-makers from liability except when weapons cause injury by malfunction.
According to National Public Radio, the wrongful death lawsuit—which named Colt Manufacturing Co. as a defendant–was filed by the parents of a woman who was killed in the shooting.
In her complaint, the woman said that gun companies, like Colt, “knowingly manufactured and sold weapons designed to shoot automatically because they were aware that their AR-15s could be easily modified with bump stocks to do so, thereby violating federal and state machinegun prohibitions.”
As LegalReader.com has reported before, shooter Stephen Paddock used an AR-15 outfitted with an after-market “bump stock” to open fire on the Route 91 Harvest Festival from his 32nd-floor suite in the Mandalay Bay Hotel.
A “bump stock” is an after-market firearm alteration, which allows semi-automatic rifles to maintain near-automatic rates of fire by harnessing the weapon’s recoil.
Paddock killed 60 concert-goers and injured nearly 1,000 others before committing suicide; investigators have still struggled to explain his actions, and have been unable to identify any compelling motive for the massacre.
While the federal government issued a blanket-ban on bump stocks in the aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting, they were easily procurable before 2017.
“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 claimed.
Nevertheless, the Nevada Supreme Court sided with Colt and its allies, finding that state law immunizes them from civil litigation, with the only “exception for products liability actions involving design or production defects that cause the firearm to malfunction.”
“We hold that (state law) provides the gun companies immunity from the wrongful death and negligence per se claims asserted against them under Nevada law in this case,” Justice Kristina Pickering wrote on behalf of a unanimous bench.
Pickering went on to say that, in spite of the shooting’s “profound” effects, the law is the law—and that, if the court is to take action against companies like Colt, the state legislature must make the first move.
“We in no way underestimate the profound public policy issues presented or the horrific tragedy the Route 91 Harvest Festival mass shooting inflicted,” Pickering said.
“If civil liability is to be imposed against firearm manufacturers and distributors in the position of the gun companies in this case, that decision is for the Legislature, not this court,” she wrote. “We urge the Legislature to act if it did not mean to provide immunity in situations like this one.”