Las Vegas Victim’s Family Accuses Gun Companies Of Selling Weapons Designed To Be Modified Into Illegal Machine Guns
Seeking to Prevent More Families from Enduring Unimaginable Pain, Parents of Las Vegas Massacre Victim Argue Gun Companies’ Choice of Design Features Caused Their Daughter’s Death
LAS VEGAS – The parents of a Seattle woman killed in the 2017 massacre at the Route 91 Harvest Musical Festival in Las Vegas today filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the manufacturers of the eight AR-15 rifles used in the shooting. The rifles were used to rain 1,049 rounds of automatic fire on the crowd in less than 10 minutes of shooting, leaving 58 people dead and more than 400 injured. The suit alleges that the weapons violate longstanding federal law outlawing the sale of automatic weapons, also referred to as “machine guns,” to the public.
Federal law prohibits weapons designed for automatic fire, including guns that can be made to fire automatically with a “simple modification.” AR-15s were originally built for use by the United States military, and the AR-15s used in the Las Vegas shooting retain the core design features of the military model, according to the suit, except for the ability of a user to “select” automatic fire. The suit alleges that manufacturers knew of the automatic design and were fully aware of the ease with which users can engage the automatic capacity of the weapon through shooting techniques, simple toolwork or simple modifications, including the bump stocks used in the shooting.
The case alleges that the manufacturers of the weapons used in the shooting were not only aware of the ease with which the weapon could be fired automatically but promoted the ability of the weapons to be easily modified as a selling point, in addition to touting the weapons military bona fides. According to the suit, it was the ferocious automatic firepower of the AR15s with the simple modification of a bump stock that resulted in the worst mas shooting in American history and the death of Carrie Parsons.
“Someone has to stand up and tell gun companies that making a gun that can be so easily modified into a machine gun is not okay. They need to know that they will be held accountable for their profiteering and for the devastation they wreak on innocent victims and their families,” said Ann-Marie Parsons, whose daughter, Carrie, was killed in the Las Vegas massacre. “My husband and I are bringing this case so other families don’t have to go through the same agony that we’ve gone through.”
“Since 1934, federal law has reflected the one gun-related area that politicians, the public and even the NRA have historically agreed on: that automatic weapons – including weapons that can be easily modified to shoot automatically – are for the battlefield and pose too grave a threat to be sold to civilians,” said the Parsons’ attorney, Josh Koskoff of Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder. “AR-15s were designed to shoot automatically because that’s what the military needed. The capacity for automatic fire, which remains very much in the DNA of the ‘civilian’ AR-15s sold today, can be unlocked with the simplest of modifications. The result is the kind of large-scale devastation we saw in Las Vegas.”
In the days leading up to October 1, 2017, more than 20,000 people converged on Las Vegas for the annual Route 91 country music festival, held at the Las Vegas Village. One of those was 31-year-old Carolyn (“Carrie”) Parsons, who lived just outside of Seattle. Carrie loved country music almost as much as her hometown Mariners and Seahawks. She had spent the prior week in New York on business and arranged with friends to meet for a girls’ weekend in Las Vegas on her way home. Recently engaged, Carrie was in full wedding-planning mode: she had already selected her bridal bouquet and planned to visit wedding venues with her sister the week after the concert.
That evening, as Carrie, her friends and thousands of others watched country music superstar Jason Aldean performing on stage, a shooter opened fire at the concertgoers from his hotel room on the 32nd floor of an adjacent hotel. Trying desperately to outrun the rain of bullets, Carrie and a friend weaved through the crowd towards the exit, climbing over two fences before a bullet hit Carrie from behind in the shoulder; she died a short time later. With just a few more seconds or a few less bullets, she may well have made it out of the concert site safely. Instead, she was buried days later with the bridal bouquet she’d picked out.
In 1982, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) held that “those weapons which have not previously functioned as machineguns but possess design features which facilitate fully automatic fire by simple modification or elimination of existing component parts” constituted machine guns under the law. In other words, a weapon that is manufactured to fire only in semi-automatic mode is nevertheless a machinegun if it can be converted to fire automatically through “simple modification.” This was a clear directive that responsibility for the scourge of automatic weapons did not lie solely with those selling gadgets or parts that did the work of conversion. By homing in on the design features of semi-automatic weapons, ATF was explicitly calling out manufacturers for selling easily convertible weapons.
Nevertheless, since 1986, the AR-15 has found an enthusiastic audience among those interested in owning a thinly disguised machine gun, the exact weapon used by American soldiers on battlefields around the world. Over the last decade, products have been developed that capitalize on the AR-15’s powerful recoil and removeable stock in order to enable, through a very simple modification, reliable automatic fire. The United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has repeatedly forced the recall of such devices, finding that they create a weapon no different than a machine gun. In response, companies make small (often non-functional) modifications to circumvent ATF’s findings and put the devices back on the market.
In the wake of the Las Vegas massacre, bump stocks have been deemed illegal but there are several other simple methods to modify an AR-15 to be fully automatic. In fact, hundreds of videos available online show the AR-15 being shot automatically in back yards and at shooting ranges with a shoestring, a rubber band or with no tools at all. One online video, viewed more than a million times, shows a man shooting an AR-15 automatically by using only his shoulder to reset the stock and achieve constant trigger activation. These simple hacks are a reminder, as ATF found 35 years before Carrie Parsons was murdered, that illegality lies with how easily the weapon itself can be modified rather than with any device used to make the modification.
Jim and Ann-Marie Parsons are represented by Josh Koskoff and Katie Mesner-Hage of Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder, Rick Friedman of Friedman Rubin and Matthew L. Sharp. Koskoff and Mesner-Hage also represent the families of several victims of the Sandy Hook massacre in a case against Remington Arms Company and others.
The case filed today, Parsons v. Colt’s Manufacturing Co. et. al., was filed in the Eighth Judicial District Court of the State of Nevada. The defendants are Colt’s Manufacturing and the other manufacturers, distributors and sellers of the machine guns used in the Las Vegas massacre.