Carl Bussjager's article at The Truth About Guns was just wrong. At least about concluding that semi-autos are machine guns in Nevada. It's hyperbolic and wrong (though the fear is real).
No, an AR-15 is not now a machine gun in Nevada because a federal judge punted the matter to the state supreme court. If you believe that, I’ve got a bridge to sell you. You can read the judge’s decision yourself. He’s referred a question about a state statute to the state court. Although the Obama appointee did punt on the federal law question (PLCAA) which should have doomed the case from the beginning.
I don’t know why judges make decisions like this. Maybe Gordon doesn’t like guns. Maybe he’s worried about his “legacy” or looking bad to whatever liberal might appoint him to some higher office. It’s not like he has to worry about voters (a shame, too).
Carrie Parsons got shot by a murderer and now her parents, blinded by grief, got roped into being the plaintiffs of a lawsuit against Colt. I’m not sure of the details of the case, but if other manufacturer lawsuits are a guide, they’ll foot the bill like folks who tried to sue after the Aurora, Colorado, shooting.
The whole argument is that Colt should have foreseen, back in 1959 when it bought the design from Armalite, that six-year old Steven Paddock was going to put a not-yet-invented bumpfire stock on a semi-automatic rifle and shoot up a concert from a hotel that didn’t exist.
There are three issues:
The PLCAA seems to get the manufacturers out of the jam, but leave the people who sold the gun in the lurch. That’s how I read it, at least.
The PLCCA, or the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, is supposed shield manufacturers from frivolous lawsuits that are filed on the basis that “guns are deadly and X criminal used Y gun to kill Z.” Like the beer brewer being responsible for the drunk driver who got into the car and killed the pedestrian. In a sane world, the judge would have quashed the entire case right then and there, but sanity has departed the world and “evil” is now called “good.”
The anti-gun groups and their hoplopathic accomplices in the court system are trying to get PLCCA thrown out so gun manufacturers can be sued out of the civilian arms business.
Two ways to stop that: Congress simply passes a law that says court’s can’t decide on PLCCA because it’s been removed from their jurisdiction under Article III of the Constitution. Second, SCOTUS gets off its duff and enforces the PLCCA by throwing this case and the one against Remington out of Connecticut under the bus. Unless the makeup of the court drastically goes Left soon, they probably will.
But not after the attorneys have made their money suing people.
Secondly, that the AR-15 style rifle can be turned into “a machine gun” is negligent entrustment and everyone should have know about Steve’s Mandalay Bay October Boogaloo somehow beforehand. I guess they forgot to call the FBI’s psychic when he filled out the Form 4473. The judge saw through this, but let’s look at the plaintiff’s stupidity.
“[The plaintiff's] allege that these defendants knowingly manufactured and sold weapons 'designed to shoot' automatically because they were aware their AR-15s could be easily modified with bump stocks to do so.”
I seriously doubt that any serious judge would find Colt liable because someone added on third-party accessory that was within the law at the time and never met the definition of machine gun.
The bump fire stock wasn’t invented until around 2000 (I don’t know exactly when the Akins Accelerator showed up) and it was another 10 years or so before the Slide Fire Systems bump fire stock, copied by others, came out. Colt clearly didn’t and couldn’t foresee this.
Anyone who knows the history of the civilian AR-15 knows that Colt made decisions and modifications, many loathed by collectors, to keep the AR-15 from going full auto. They can’t say “easily modified to full automatic fire.” To make a semi-auto AR-15 into a machine gun you need to do one of several things:
Adding a bumpfire stock, which under federal law most certainly doesn’t meet the definition of a machine gun (and the 2017 definition of machine gun in Nevada), is not easily converting something to fully automatic.
A judge hearing this all before trial is radically different than an actual trial, where the judge or jury determines fact. Gordon didn’t bite. No sane judge who values his reputation would find that Colt made it easy to modify these things into machine guns. A jury is a bit different, but despite a plaintiff’s verdict from a brain-dead jury, the verdict would probably be overturned on appeal.
Finally, we come to the final issue. Basically, the federal judge said “Hey, Nevada’s own PLCAA statute, NRS 41.131, isn’t within the federal jurisdiction, so that needs to go to the state Supreme Court to decide.”
Again, in a sane world the Nevada Supreme Court would throw this out. Again, under state law at the time, bump fire stocks were totally legal. The fact that the 2019 legislature changed the definition of machine gun to specifically outlaw bumpfire stocks is also another damning fact against the case.
The real question is, will the Nevada Supreme Court go full retard or not? We saw them pull stuff out of their asses in the Flores case, but who knows what they will do here. On the surface, the court dismisses the case and every one has a nice day, except the plaintiffs who are stuck with a monstrous attorney bill.
As Clayton Cramer pointed out, the judge (a former attorney) probably allowed this nonsense to go forward is to allow the attorneys to collect their billings. The old maxim goes that no one but the lawyers win in a lawsuit. The plaintiff’s bar and the legal system in Nevada is a corrupt plaintiff-friendly state. The behind the scenes stuff would disgust you if you knew how corrupt it was, but it’s Chinatown.
If they abandon all logic and reasoning and find that Nevada’s PLCCA doesn’t apply and says a trial can go forward, then the plaintiff still has to convince a judge or jury that Colt did wrong. To sum up the argument at trial again, the plaintiff basically has to argue that Colt knew it was basically passing out machine guns to mad men.
By the way, if he did this with a registered machine gun, what then? Interesting question, huh? Paddock had the money, the time, and a clean enough background, to legally buy a much deadlier machine gun. Good think these mass-murderers are generally more diabolical than intelligent.
Finally, the federal bumpfire stock cases that are winding through the system will more than likely say "no, they're not machine guns and the ATF was wrong to declare them so." Then half of this is moot.
So what we’re looking at here is a big nothing burger with a potential chance of judicial stupidity. We may get asinine decisions out of the state supreme court and the trial court, but there is a pretty good chance that those will never survive the ultimate appeals process. I mean, Trump is probably going to get re-elected and Ginsburg isn’t going to last another four years. Worst case scenario; we’ll be disappointed, but not surprised what the Wizards of Carson City come up with, perhaps even the trial court too, and have to wait out the process for the big guns to waffle stomp these plaintiffs down the drain.
Clayton E. Cramer
Gun Free Zone
The War on Guns
The View From Out West