Gun Manufacturers Accused of Selling Weapons Designed to be Modified Into Illegal Machine Guns
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 3, 2019
Doug Cohen / 617-595-7160
GUN MANUFACTURERS ACCUSED OF SELLING
WEAPONS SPECIFICALLY 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 mass 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.