Democrats in Congress introduced legislation Tuesday that seeks to repeal legal protections for firearm manufacturers, opening the door for shooting victims to sue companies that create firearms.
What are the details?
The bill, titled, “The Equal Access to Justice for Victims of Gun Violence Act,” seeks to repeal the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, a 2005 law that immunizes the firearm industry from civil liability in both state and federal courts.
“[The bill] will allow civil cases to go forward against irresponsible actors in state and federal courts, just as they would if they involved any other product. Letting courts hear these cases would provide victims of gun violence their day in court,” reads a press release about the bill.
The bill is sponsored by Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) in the House and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) in the Senate. The lawmakers claim “numerous cases” have been dismissed on the basis of the PLCAA “even when the gun makers and sellers acted in a fashion that would qualify as negligent if it involved any other product.”
Speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill, Schiff said Tuesday that “responsible actors in the gun industry don’t need this limitation on liability,” according to NPR.
Blumenthal added, “All we’re doing through this proposal is giving victims of gun violence their day in court.”
“Every other industry has to pay punitive damages if it intentionally and purposefully violates [a] standard of care,” he claimed. “That will provide a powerful incentive as it has done in tobacco, in automobiles, in pharmaceutical drugs, for safer products.”
Democratic lawmakers have attempted many times to repeal the PLCAA, though their efforts thus far remain unfruitful.
What do opponents say?
Proponents of the PLCAA argue the firearm manufacturer industry requires the protections because they would otherwise be inundated by frivolous lawsuits from those who believe the industry is culpable in all crimes that use firearms.
Indeed, as Lawrence Keane of the National Shooting Sports Foundation — a firearms trade organization, which would be subject to lawsuits if the PLCAA is repealed — told NPR that permitting civil liability against the firearm industry is “fundamentally unfair.”
“You would no more charge or blame Ford or General Motors for drunk driving accidents,” he explained.
Does this reform have traction?
Democrats in recent years, especially because mass shootings are now more prominently covered due to social media, have stepped up efforts to implement gun control. All of those efforts, which have come after two landmark Second Amendment cases within the last 11 years, have largely failed.
But taking aim at the firearm industry may prove fruitful. If Congress were to repeal the PLCAA, the firearm industry could be targeted with countless lawsuits, potentially inflicting hundreds of millions of dollars of economic strain on the industry. The move could essentially act as a backdoor to gun control.
Unfortunately for Second Amendment supporters, at least one liberal state is already helping shift the tides.
In March, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that gun maker Remington — which manufactured the AR-15 rifle used in the Sandy Hook massacre — can be sued for so-called wrongful marketing.