Family of deadly Vegas shooting victim sues gun makers
The lawsuit is the latest case to challenge a federal law shielding gun manufacturers from liability
By Michelle L. Price, Michael Balsamo and Scott Sonner
LAS VEGAS — The parents of a young woman killed in the 2017 Las Vegas massacre said Wednesday they blame gun manufacturers for their daughter's death.
"Someone murdered our daughter," said James Parsons, whose 31-year-old daughter Carrie Parsons was one of 58 people killed when a gunman rained down gunfire from a high-rise hotel. "Someone should be held accountable for that."
A wrongful death lawsuit filed Tuesday targets Colt and seven other gun manufacturers, along with gun shops in Nevada and Utah, arguing their weapons are designed to be easily modified to fire like automatic weapons.
"It was a horrifying, agonizing experience and we don't want this to happen to other families," Parsons told The Associated Press of the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
The lawsuit is the latest case to challenge a federal law shielding gun manufacturers from liability. It charges that gun makers marketed the ability of the AR-15-style weapons to be easily modified to mimic machine guns and fire continuously, violating both a state and federal ban on automatic weapons.
A firearms industry group said Wednesday the man who opened fire on a country music concert is the only one responsible for the deaths.
Parsons and his wife Ann-Marie argue in the lawsuit that the firearms are "thinly disguised" machine guns that the manufacturers knew could be easily modified, even without the use of a "bump stock," an attachment used by the Las Vegas gunman that allowed him to fire in rapid succession.
The Trump administration banned bump stocks this year, making it illegal to possess them under the same federal laws that prohibit machine guns.
"We understand this is an uphill battle," Ann-Marie Parsons told the AP on Wednesday from their home in suburban Seattle. "But somebody has got to do something because the carnage continues."
"Losing our daughter is the worst thing that ever happened to us. It is hurtful to us every time we see these things happen," she said.
The lawsuit charges 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 alleges 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 states.
Courts have typically rejected lawsuits against gun manufacturers and dealers in other high-profile shooting attacks, citing a 2005 federal law that shields gun makers from liability in most cases when their products are used in crimes.
Neither Colt nor any of the other manufacturers immediately responded to requests for comment from The Associated Press. But a national trade association formed on behalf of the firearms industry in 1961 said in an email to AP on Wednesday there is no legal basis for the lawsuit.
Lawrence G. Keane, senior vice president and general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, said the responsibility for the tragedy in Las Vegas "rests with the criminal who committed the violent and reprehensible acts."
"It is wrong to blame the manufacturers of legal, non-defective products lawfully sold for the actions of a madman," he wrote. "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."
The attorney for the Parsons family, Joshua Koskoff, is representing relatives of victims of the Newtown school massacre in a similar lawsuit. The Connecticut Supreme Court in March ruled that gun-maker Remington could be sued for the way it marketed an AR-15-style rifle used to kill 20 first graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. Remington plans to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Las Vegas shooter opened fire on the crowd of 22,000 from his suite in a tower of the Mandalay Bay casino-resort. Police and the FBI say the gunman acted alone and killed himself before officers reached his hotel room.
The FBI's Behavioral Analysis unit later found the shooter sought notoriety in the attack on the open-air concert but cited no "single or clear motivating factor."
The lawsuit is among more than a dozen filed since the Oct. 1, 2017, shooting, though it's the first to target a gun maker.
Victims have sued MGM Resorts International, which operated the concert venue and owns the Mandalay Bay hotel, along with the concert promoter and others.
MGM Resorts then sued hundreds of victims in a bid to avoid liability. The company has been in settlement talks with the victims and their families.