DALLAS (CBSDFW/AP) — One of the nation’s leading gun-control groups has filed a lawsuit against the makers and sellers of “bump stocks,” the devices used by the gunman in what is now the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence filed the lawsuit on behalf of victims of the Oct. 1 shooting in Las Vegas. The lawsuit claims that the leading manufacturer of the devices misled federal authorities about their intended purpose and marketed them to thrill-seeking gun enthusiasts who wanted the experience of firing a fully automatic weapon that is otherwise greatly restricted under federal law.
The lawsuit was filed Friday in Clark County District Court in Nevada; it has three named plaintiffs — all victims of the shooting — and seeks class-action status. It’s not the first time that the Brady Center has filed a lawsuit after a high-profile shooting, seeking to hold gunmakers and others in the industry accountable.
Slide Fire Solutions, the Texas-based company that is considered the top manufacturer of “bump stocks” did not return an email message sent Tuesday through its Facebook page seeking comment.
The owner of Slide Fire Solutions, Jeremiah Cottle, is a retired Air Force veteran who was recovering from a pair of brain injuries he suffered in the military when he came up with the the device seven years ago.
Cottle declined an interview but told the CBS11 I-Team he was “heartbroken” about what took place in Las Vegas and realizes how non-gun enthusiasts may not fully understand why he invented the bump stock.
He said he came up with the idea for a bump stock solely for recreational purposes, after he and his friends were out shooting one day and weren’t able to fire as fast as they wanted.
In his first year of business in 2010, Slide Fire Solutions exceeded $10 million in sales, according to a 2011 published report in The Albany Times.
Slide Fire Solutions is now one of the largest employers in Cottle’s small West Texas hometown of Moran, where the population is 270.
The bump stocks were originally intended to help people with disabilities who have arm mobility issues fire a semi-automatic long gun. It replaces the stock and pistol grip and allows the weapon to fire continuously, mimicking a fully automatic firearm. Bump stocks were found among the weapons used by Stephen Paddock as he shot from a Las Vegas casino high-rise Oct. 1, killing 58 people at a concert and wounding hundreds.
Avery Gardiner, co-president of the Brady Center, told The Associated Press that assuring federal regulators reviewing the device that the bump stock was to help disabled gun owners was disingenuous and misleading. “But when they marketed it to the public, they said it’s because fully automatic weapons are fun,” Gardiner said.
“So what their product is designed to do is subvert federal law on machine guns, and that’s irresponsible,” she said.
The gun industry has broad protections from lawsuits. The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act was enacted in 2005, protecting gunmakers and dealers from being held liable whenever a crime is committed with a firearm.
However, in this case, Gardiner said, that liability wouldn’t apply because Slide Fire manufactures neither firearms nor ammunition.
Since the shooting, a bipartisan mix of members of Congress have called for a ban on bump stocks, while the National Rifle Association has suggested the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives should revisit the devices and determine if they should be subject to greater restrictions. The ATF ruled in 2010 that the devices were not subject to restrictions under either the Gun Control Act or the National Firearms Act, laws that restrict access to machine guns and silencers.
“We have decided to temporarily suspend taking new orders in order to provide the best service with those already placed,” Slide Fire Solutions says in a statement on their website.
Cottle told the CBS11 I-Team that this doesn’t mean he’s stopping operations but said he just needs some time to take in everything that has happened.