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Gun Devices Used By Strip Shooter Become Target Of Class-Action Suit

bump_stock.jpg

George Frey/Getty Images

A bump stock device (left) can be fitted to a semi-automatic rifle to increase firing speed.

Strip shooter Stephen Paddock modified his guns with bump stocks, devices that boosted their lethality by giving them the firing speed of automatic weapons when he killed 58 people on Oct. 1.

Now prominent Las Vegas attorney Robert Eglet is vowing to shut down the Texas company that makes bump stocks. Eglet filed suit against bump stock manufacturer Slide Fire on behalf of victims of the attack; he is seeking class-action status in the case.

“Well, quite frankly, the goal of the complaint is to put this company out of business,” he said. Paddock “never could have hit and killed and shot anywhere near, anything close to the number of people  he did at that concert without having those bump stocks.”

Slide Fire owner Jeremiah Cottle patented the bump stock and has manufactured it since 2010 in the tiny Texas town of Moran. Bump stocks use the gun’s kick to squeeze the trigger much faster than by finger pulls alone.

“It is clearly foreseeable, expected by this gun company with the mass shootings we have occurring in this country now at least on a weekly basis that someone is going to take these bump stocks and turn semiautomatic weapons… into fully automatic weapons and use them in a mass shooting like this,” Eglet said.

Most gun makers, gun component makers and ammunition manufacturers are immune from lawsuits under a 2006 law. But because the ATF ruled that bump stocks are not covered under that law, Slide Fire can be sued.

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In addition, a ruling by the Nevada Supreme Court that came out of the hepatitis outbreak a few years ago a class action suit can be filed for medical monitoring. Eglet said that is what they're doing in this case.

“That is what we’ve done on behalf of the people who attended the event but weren’t physically injured in some way but either at some point might have the potential… of suffering from some sort of PTSD as a result of experiencing that event,” he said.

Matt Valentine, who covered bump stocks and the Oct. 1 shooting in a recent Politico Magazine article, said that after a mass shooting there is public interest in changing gun laws, but little is done and public attention goes elsewhere.

He said that is where lawsuits like Eglet's come in.

“Legislative efforts to correct or tweak gun policy to try to either prevent mass shootings or to make them less severe tends to lose momentum," he said, "That is one of the reasons that the civil justice system might be able to play a role that is more impactful than the legislative.”

Eglet, senior partner at Eglet Prince, was hired this month by Clark County to sue drug companies on behalf of taxpayers over the costs of combating the opioid epidemic. He also collected more than a half-billion dollars for clients injured in a Clark County hepatitis outbreak a decade ago.

(Editor's Note: This interview originally aired December 2017)

Guests

Robert Eglet, personal injury attorney; Matt Valentine, writer who covers firearms issues

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