Gun Manufacturer and Dealer Liability Shield May Be Repealed By Proposed Legislation

Legislation recently proposed by several U.S. lawmakers seeks to remove the controversial immunity that has protected gun manufacturers and dealers from liability in lawsuits. 

Democratic lawmakers in the House and Senate have proposed the “Equal Access to Justice for Victims of Gun Violence Act” in both chambers, seeking to repeal the “Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA)”, which has been in place since 2005, providing protections for the gun industry from product liability lawsuits. The text of the House bill, H.R. 4399 was introduced on February 1.

If passed, the legislation would mean that companies operating in the fire arms industry would not be shielded from lawsuits for negligence or disregard for public safety. It would affect manufacturers, distributors, and gun dealers, as well as trade associations. The legislation was introduced by Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, of Connecticut, and Representative Adam Schiff, of California.

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“Victims of law-breaking gun makers and dealers deserve a day in court — fair rights and remedies restored by this measure,” Senator Blumenthal said in a press release. “Alone among all industries, guns are protected by a near absolute wall of legal immunity that bars the courthouse doors to victims.”

The lawmakers note that when the PLCAA was first passed, proponents claimed that it would only prevent frivolous lawsuits, but would not stop citizens from bringing legitimate claims. However, according to the lawmakers behind the latest legislation, it has done just that. In reality, the lawmakers say, the immunity law prevents plaintiffs from even going through discovery or introducing evidence of negligence.

It is unclear how far the legislation is likely to get in this Congress, with both chambers currently controlled by the Republican Party, which is heavily influenced by the gun lobby.

“PLCAA is as low as it gets – a truly evil piece of special interest legislation that not only gives the gun industry protection from liability that no other industry in our nation enjoys, but it strips the rights of already devastated families,” Dan Gross, President of Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said in the press release. “We are calling on all members in the House and Senate to co-sponsor this important bill and immediately schedule a vote to pass it.”

Senators Blumenthal and Murphy represent Connecticut, where the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre took place in December 2012. Gunman Adam Lanza entered the school armed with a Bushmaster Model XM15-E2S rifle, which he took out of his mother’s unlocked gun cabinet, along with 10 30-round magazines and began killing everyone in sight. The only individuals able to escape the attack were those who ran out while Lanza stopped to reload. Ultimately, six teachers and 20 elementary school children were killed, sparking a national debate on gun laws.

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