- Victims of the Las Vegas shooting are filing lawsuits, but not against gun makers.
- It’s difficult to hold gun makers and sellers legally liable, due to a 2005 act.
- Opponents of the act argue that gun makers need to take legal responsibility to prevent future shootings.
Less than a month after the Las Vegas shooting, the movement to ban bump stocks is losing steam.
However, for victims and their families, the process of attempting to get money for medical bills or disabilities resulting from the shooting is only just beginning.
At least half a dozen lawsuits have been filed by plaintiffs who were victims of the Las Vegas shooting that killed 58 people and wounded more than 500.
Each of the complaints viewed by Business Insider names MGM, the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, concert organizer Live Nation Entertainment, bump stock maker Slide Fire Solutions, and the estate of Stephen Paddock as defendants.
Some of the lawsuits claim that hotels and concert organizer are liable because of negligence. And some plaintiffs claim that bump stock makers should be held liable due to both negligence and producing “unreasonably dangerous weapons” that were not marketed as such.
The long list of defendants, though, does not include gun makers. That’s because of a series of laws and legal decisions that protect gun makers, despite other companies being held liable.
The roots of the movement to protect gun makers and sellers from lawsuits started in the late 1990s, reports Time magazine.
When major tobacco companies were forced to pay $206 million over 25 years in a 1998 settlement, many gun makers grew concerned that they could similarly be held liable for shootings. And, before 2005, many gun makers and sellers were held accountable after shootings and told to enforce more stringent gun control laws.
In 2005, Congress passed the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA).
While the law doesn’t protect gun companies in 100% of cases, it makes it difficult to hold gun makers and sellers liable when their wares are used to commit crimes. For instance, a gun store employee who sells a firearm to someone who they know intends to commit a crime can still be held legally liable, but in most cases, gun sellers can’t be charged with negligence unless it is seen as purposeful.
While supporters of the PLCAA believe the law to be a necessary protection for the gun industry against frivolous lawsuits, opponents believe it further injures victims. Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders campaigned against the act in the 2016 election.
“The end of the Arms Act … would remind applicable gun sellers in this country that they face serious financial consequences if they fail to meet the highest levels of scrutiny when selling a weapon,” Andrew Cohen wrote in The Atlantic after the Sandy Hook shooting.
Following the Sandy Hook shootings in 2012, some families attempted to file a suit against the maker of the rifle that killed 28 people, claiming that the company should not market the weapon to the general public because it was originally designed for combat. The case was dismissed, citing PLCAA, and is currently under appeal.