Today the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and the Las Vegas based Eglet Prince law firm announced their class action lawsuit against Slide Fire, the company that manufactures the “bump stock” device that was used in last week’s Mandalay Bay Shooting. The suit names other “bump stock” manufacturers as defendants, as well. They produce a device that had been considered a legal loophole to convert semi-automatic assault weapons into fully automatic weapons. This lawsuit will test the legal limits of the increasingly powerful guns and gun accessories that have entered the civilian market in recent years.

How this all began

In 2005, less than a year after Congress allowed the federal assault weapons ban to expire, Congress then passed legislation to afford special legal liability protection to the gun industry. Since then, the gun industry has used the 2005 law to fend off numerous liability suits, including those charging manufacturers or dealers with negligent marketing or public nuisance.
The plaintiffs behind this class action suit against “bump stock” manufacturers are hoping for a different outcome. Since fully automatic “machine guns” are still illegal for civilian use under state and federal law, they’re arguing that “bump stocks” are essentially designed to break the law without authorities noticing.

“If you sell lethal firearms or accessories that can turn conventional firearms into ‘machine guns’, you have a duty to use reasonable care to reduce harm.”
– Jonathan Lowy, Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence

Jonathan Lowy, Vice President for Legal Action at the Brady Center, explained the purpose of this suit at their press conference at the Eglet Prince Law Office in Downtown Las Vegas. “The theory of this case is simple: It is the principle of negligence, the most fundamental in our society,” Lowy said. “It’s a principle that all of us have to use reasonable care in our actions to prevent foreseeable injury to others.”

We apologize for the technical difficulties we encountered earlier. Here's the press conference held by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and the Eglet Prince Law Firm to discuss the lawsuit they're filing against the "bump stock" device the shooter used in the #1October mass shooting.

Posted by Nevada Forward on Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Lowy then argued that Slide Fire has misled law enforcement officials and the general public with its “bump stock” marketing campaigns. Even though the company has marketed its “bump stock” as a device to assist those with hand mobility problems, its inventor, Jeremiah Cottle, told Ammoland in 2016, “Slide Fire brings shooters the same [fully automatic] experience but without having to take out a second mortgage on their home.”
“If you sell lethal firearms or accessories that can turn conventional firearms into ‘machine guns’, you have a duty to use reasonable care to reduce harm,” Lowy argued. “If you don’t use reasonable care, and you market these products wily-nily to the general public, you can and should be held liable.”

Can this suit actually succeed?

Photo by Andrew Davey

At first glance, it appears that the plaintiffs have a compelling case to take to court. However, they still have to overcome the 2005 law that shields the gun industry from a host of liability suits.
We asked Lowy about this after the press conference. He pointed out that the 2005 law generally covers actual guns and ammunition, whereas this lawsuit pertains to an accessory used on assault weapons. “We think it’s clear that law doesn’t apply here for a number of reasons. […] That law applies to firearms and ammunition. This was an accessory, not a firearms or ammunition.”

Lowy also honed in on the actual intent of Slide Fire in making and selling the “bump stock”. “These companies knew or should have known that somebody was going to use effectively a machine gun to do what machine guns are intended to do, which is to shoot and kill a lot of people in a short amount of time.”
The lawsuit was filed last Friday in Clark County District Court. The suit comes as Congressional Republicans are already shying away from the very “bump stock” ban many of them floated as a possibility last week. And with Governor Brian Sandoval (R) seemingly ruling out a special session of the Nevada Legislature this fall, it’s doubtful whether federal or state laws will change any time soon.