Nevada Supreme Court Rules Gunmakers Not Liable for Las Vegas Concert Shooting

Nevada's highest court has sided with gun manufacturers in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the parents of a woman killed in the 2017 mass shooting on the Las Vegas strip, the Associated Press reported.

The state Supreme Court ruled that the gunmakers, including Colt Manufacturing Co. and several others, are not liable for the shooting deaths because a state law protects them from culpability unless one of their firearms malfunctions.

Hundreds of people were wounded and 60 have died since Stephen Paddock used an AR-15 with a bump stock to fire on a concert crowd of 22,000 people from his Mandalay Bay hotel room, the AP reported. Paddock was able to fire 1,049 rounds in 10 minutes before taking his own life.

The woman's parents filed the lawsuit in July 2019, alleging that the gun companies "knowingly manufactured and sold weapons designed to shoot automatically because they were aware their AR-15s could be easily modified with bump stocks to do so, thereby violating federal and state machine gun prohibitions."

In the state court's unanimous decision, they agreed that the gun manufacturers were not subject to liability because of the Nevada law, according to the AP.

"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 in the decision.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Las Vegas Shooting Liability Ruling
The Nevada Supreme Court cited a state law that shields gun manufacturers from liability unless the weapon malfunctions in a new ruling that says they cannot be held responsible for the deaths in the 2017 mass shooting on the Las Vegas Strip. Investigators work at a festival grounds across the street from the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino on October 3, 2017, in Las Vegas after a mass shooting. Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP Photo

The lawsuit filed by Carrie Parsons' parents, James and Ann Marie Parsons of Seattle, alleged the manufacturers showed a "reckless lack of regard for public safety" by advertising the firearms "as military weapons and signaling the weapon's ability to be simply modified." It said there are dozens of videos online showing people how to install bump stocks.

"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 said.

Pickering said the lawsuit was based on a claim of fault "beyond a firearm's inherent ability to cause harm, that is, the gun companies' manufacture and distribution of illegal machine guns."

But she said in the 20-page ruling the state law doesn't limit the manufacturer's immunity specifically to "legal" firearms. She said it states that no civil action is permitted in such cases against the maker of "any" firearm or ammunition.

"We in no way underestimate the profound public policy issues presented or the horrific tragedy the Route 91 Harvest Festival mass shooting inflicted," she wrote, while noting that the law as written did not allow the Parsons to make a claim against the manufacturers.

"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."

Mandalay Bay Shooting
Nevada's highest court has sided with gun manufacturers in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the parents of a woman killed in the 2017 mass shooting on the Las Vegas strip. Above, drapes billow out of broken windows at the Mandalay Bay resort and casino on the Las Vegas Strip following a mass shooting at a music festival on October 2, 2017. John Locher/AP Photo