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Would the Gun Store Have Responsibility for the Las Vegas Shooting?

America was in shock on October 1 when news broke out that the largest mass shooting in American history had occurred. Stephen Paddock opened fire from his hotel room at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino and aimed at concertgoers at a nearby country music festival. The shooting left 58 people dead and nearly 500 injured.

An investigation has shown that the 64-year-old shooter had bought 33 guns in the past year. Police found 23 guns in his hotel room and 19 more in one of his houses. A dozen of the guns found in the man’s hotel room had what are called bump fire stocks. They attach to the back of a rifle and turn it into a fast-firing semi-automatic weapon, making it more similar to a machine gun. This enabled the shooter to fire 280 rounds of ammunition in just 31 seconds. Furthermore, bump fire stocks are legal to purchase and use.

The shooter made his gun purchases from multiple gun stores in Nevada, California, Texas, and Utah. While federal law does require all gun stores across the states to report multiple handgun purchases to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, there is no law as of yet that regulates the sale of rifles. Rifles were primarily used in the attack. That’s how the shooter was able to stockpile several guns over 12 months without any red flags from the government.

Nevada Gun Laws

Nevada is known for having the least regulated gun purchases in the nation. Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a nonprofit organization, gives Nevada an F grade—the worst grade possible—due to what they deem is the state’s lax gun laws. Among the reasons:

  • You don’t need a permit or license to buy a firearm.
  • Guns do not need to be registered.
  • No permit is required for open carry.
  • There is no waiting period to purchase a gun, so you can acquire one right away…and buy as many as you want, since there is no limit.
  • You can own a machine gun that was manufactured before 1986. Background checks are required, however, and these include mental health records.

Gun Industry Protections

In the case of the Las Vegas shooting, can the gun stores be held liable? While we would all probably find solace in finding a culprit who aided the killer, it is unlikely that gun stores will be held accountable. Not only are there laws currently in place to protect gun stores, but they also operate completely within the boundaries of the law. Both gun sellers and manufacturers can’t be held liable for the misuse of their product. The only way in which a gun store can be held liable is if the gun was sold illegally.

Successful Lawsuit Against Gun Store Owner

There has been only one successful lawsuit against a gun store owner in the US. The shocking verdict came in 2015 after two Milwaukee police officers were shot by a gun that was bought illegally. The officers sued the gun store for its actions. The jury believed that the store clerk knowingly made an illegal sale. There was video evidence, plus the store had a long history of selling guns to criminals. Based on this evidence, the police officers were awarded $6 million in damages.

Who Is Accountable?

In this type of case, the shooter could be sued for causing wrongful death. However, since he took his own life, only his estate can be sued. There are other complex legal venues victims could seek to hold accountable for this attack, but the real problem is that this man was a murderer with no known accomplices. The only person accountable is him, and while many people want more justice for his heinous crime, he is currently the only one that is being held accountable for what happened by measure of current laws.

What Does This Mean for Gun Shops?

The short answer is that the gun stores that sold Paddock his guns likely won’t have responsibility for his actions. With our current infrastructure in the United States and different laws surrounding gun control, it would be nearly impossible for gun stores to know that the shooter had been buying rifles across state lines, and the gun stores wouldn’t have been able to know the shooter’s intent. This event may have awakened a new sense of legislation on a federal level and maybe increased gun control in Nevada, but it is difficult to say. For now, Naqvi Injury Law is here to offer our support, condolences, and services to anyone affected by the shooting. Know that you have legal advocates who are on your side and who are willing to do what we can if you or a loved one was victimized in this terrible attack.