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John L Smith: MGM Settlement Could Set Precedent For Corporations In Gun Debate

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(AP Photo/John Locher)

People visit a memorial garden for victims of a mass shooting in Las Vegas, Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019, in Las Vegas. Two years after a shooter rained gunfire on country music fans from a high-rise Las Vegas hotel, MGM Resorts International reached a settlement that could pay up to $800 million to families of the 58 people who died and hundreds of others who were injured, attorneys said Thursday.

MGM Resorts announced a massive settlement with the families of victims of the October 1st shooting. 

The company has agreed to contribute anywhere from $731 to $800 million to a fund for about 4,500 plaintiffs. It's one of the largest settlements in American history. 

Nevada Public Radio contributor John L. Smith said the resort company's insurance policy would take care of a majority of the payout but that's not really what the settlement was about. 

“It was about the settlement. It was about making sure from a corporate side that MGM admitted no liability but also appeared to be in it for all the right reasons,” he said.

Smith noted that MGM Resorts got into a bit of trouble when it announced it was going to litigate the settlement as a way to consolidate the lawsuits. He said this settlement is the opposite of that move.

“There’s a lot at stake for the company and a lot of that was image related. You’re publicly traded. You really are a huge employer. You are a big part of the community,” he said.

One of the long-term wins for MGM Resorts will be in the way it addresses security and moves forward from the shooting in a positive way, Smith said.

“If you can cross that barrier and if there’s a victory… it will be in the long term. It will be in showing, not just in that one corporation, but from all the majors in Las Vegas to show that security can improve. That it can maintain a friendly atmosphere and still increase security,” he said.

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Now, gun safety is a big part of Democratic presidential candidates' talking points. With MGM's settlement and mass shootings on the top of everyone's mind, it could be the kind of thing that forces companies to enter the debate on guns.

“I think it sets an example. It sets a high bar. It shows the degree to which a company can put down its guard a bit. Drop the guard in the litigation game. Get to the bottom of it. Appreciate the gravity of the tragedy that’s taken place. And try to help heal,” Smith said.

He noted that corporations are a big part of American lives and pretending to sit on the sidelines of an issue like gun control is "last generation thinking," he continued, “Gun violence in America is extremely serious and it is evolving.”

HECKLERS AT RENO AIRPORT

Many of the Democratic candidates were in Nevada this week to talk gun safety, and in Reno, the Reno-Tahoe Industrial Airport issued an apology to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, after protesters heckled the candidate with Native American war cries.

Smith said using something stereotypical and cliched against Warren is "below the belt." Warren has claimed Native American heritage in the past but recently apologized for taking a DNA test to prove her heritage.

Smith said the war cries from hecklers were insensitive to the Native Americans who were the first residents of Nevada.

“What makes it worse, of course, is that chairman of the Republican Party, Michael McDonald retweeted it as if it weren’t insensitive. As if it were just ‘Welcome to Reno,’ ‘Welcome to Nevada.”

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL IN LAS VEGAS

Then ... there's also the potential for Major League Baseball to come to Las Vegas. 

“We’re a long way from having the Oakland A’s come here in one regard because what this really is is Major League Baseball. Rob Manfred is tired of dealing with Oakland on the Coliseum issue," Smith said.

The rumors really started flying early this week when Manfred said the A's would be able to move if the Coliseum issue is not resolved. The city of Oakland has filed a lawsuit against the A's. Manfred said the city needs to drop the lawsuit or the team could move.

Smith sees the threat as a political move by MLB and the A's to get the city and county governments, which both own a piece of the Coliseum, to do their jobs and fix up the "carewarn" stadium.

This latest talk of a major league team moving to Las Vegas is "pie in the sky" for Smith but, “It’s a growing population. There is a lot of interest. It helps when you have an NHL team that nearly wins the Stanley Cup in its first year.”

Smith said he wouldn't be surprised if a better-funded and more serious run for bringing an MLB team here is announced in the next couple of years. 

Guests

John L Smith, KNPR contributor 

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