A federal judge in Nevada has allowed a lawsuit to move forward that alleges semi-automatic AR-15s should be considered machine guns because they can be converted to simulate fully automatic fire using bump stocks.
The suit is being brought against several gun makers and dealers, including Colt and Daniel Defense, by the family of a woman killed in the Las Vegas massacre in 2017.
The Parsons family and their attorneys asserted three causes of action, two of which were dismissed by U.S. District Judge Andrew Gordon. But Judge Gordon allowed the suit to move forward based on the plaintiff’s wrongful death claim, arguing that the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) does not bar the suit from continuing.
The case will next be considered by the Nevada Supreme Court.
“We’re pleased that Judge Gordon certified these questions to the Nevada Supreme Court. We’re optimistic that the Supreme Court is not going to rule that the legislature intended to give immunity to companies that intentionally violate the law,” said one of the Parsons family attorneys, Rich Friedman.
The Parsons argue that gun makers should be held accountable for their daughter’s death because they should have foreseen that someone could have modified their rifles with bump stocks to turn them into machine guns. Under this line of thinking, the manufacturers and dealers violated federal and Nevada laws prohibiting machine guns to be sold except as authorized by the National Firearms Act.
The judge also argued that the PLCAA, which would normally protect gun makers from frivolous lawsuits, might not apply in this case because it includes an exception for companies that knowingly violate state or federal statutes. Gun dealers are not protected under the PLCAA, in other words, because they illegally sold “machine guns” to the Las Vegas shooter.
“The Parsons plead facts from which a reasonable fact finder could conclude that the shooter’s use of an AR-15 modified to shoot automatically in a mass shooting was reasonably foreseeable,” Judge Gordon said. “The Parsons plead facts showing that the defendants’ AR-15s could be easily modified with bump stocks to shoot automatically, which the shooter did with tragic results. So the Parsons have sufficiently alleged causation.”
It’s important to keep in mind that the judge’s ruling does not have force of law in Nevada or anywhere else. He is just allowing the suit to move forward after Colt filed a motion to dismiss, and the Nevada Supreme Court will be able to rule on the case, barring any further action.