Fortunately, these attacks are running up against a bipartisan federal law enacted to protect against this very effort.
Golden State Gun Blues
California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom rammed through egregious gun control laws last year. The outcry was so great he was forced to backpedal on some after facing legal challenges of his own. Still, California’s SB 1327 took effect Jan. 1 and allows private residents to file lawsuits against gun manufacturers if they violate the state’s so-called “assault weapons” ban or ban on firearm sales to anyone under 21 years old, according to Breitbart News. It’s being called a political stunt by Gov. Newsom who’s toying with a presidential run.
Dan Walters of Cal Matters highlights the counter-intuitiveness of the law. It’s all just political theater.
“The firearms that are specifically targeted by the legislation are already illegal under California law and the major arms makers that Newsom implies would be punished take great pains not to sell the prohibited products,” Walters wrote.
Walters hits center bullseye on SB 1327 saying, “Finally, a federal law… protects firearms manufacturers from liability suits.”
Since last New Year’s, over 16.4 million guns were sold at retail, including 1.7 million through December and the holidays, according to NSSF industry data. Even in states with strict gun control laws and anti-gun governors, they bought guns in historic numbers. States like New York, New Jersey and Delaware enacted flawed laws of their own that give residents the idea they can sue lawful gun manufacturers for the crimes committed by criminals.
New York expanded its “public nuisance” law to allow the state, local governments and the victims of crimes to file civil suits against gun makers and firearm distributors if firearms are criminally misused. NSSF sued New York Democratic Attorney General Letitia James to block the law’s expansion, which is now being used as the basis for lawsuits by the cities of Rochester and Buffalo, N.Y., against firearm manufacturers.
In New Jersey, Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy enacted several gun control laws and vowed to go further to “hold gun manufacturers accountable.” He created a state office with the sole purpose of suing gun manufacturers, the Statewide Affirmative Firearms Enforcement Office.
“We’re going to use it aggressively and we’re going to hold the [gun] industry accountable,” Democratic Attorney General Matt Platkin said. “With the establishment of this office, we are sending a clear message to every participant in the firearms industry: if you violate our laws, you will pay.”
The industry which produces legal products isn’t violating laws by providing for the exercise of the Second Amendment by law-abiding Americans.
Delaware Democratic Gov. John Carney signed a package of six gun control bills, including a provision “holding gun makers and dealers liable for gun violence.”
A representative from Delaware Moms Demand Action stated, “The bottom line is that all of these bills… they’re all going to make us safer.”
Again, suing a lawful firearm business that provides a legal gun to a Delawarean who passed the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check (NICS) does nothing to punish the criminal who’s illegally buying black market guns or illegally transporting a gun into Delaware. And it doesn’t make anyone safer.
Not to be outdone, California passed its own unconstitutional version patterned on the New York, New Jersey and Delaware statutes.
These flawed laws won’t keep guns out of the hands of criminals but are aimed at harming the lawful firearm industry through endless and frivolous lawsuits. The federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) was enacted to stop just that. The PLCAA passed with wide bipartisan support in 2005 and was signed into law by President George W. Bush in response to a wave of lawsuits that were aimed at putting those companies out of business based on circumstances beyond their control.
Noted legal scholar and Professor Jonathan Turley, the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University, described these public nuisance lawsuits as, “absurd.”
“Product liability and tort actions against manufacturers have uniformly and correctly been rejected by the courts,” Turley wrote. “Guns are lawful products, and holding companies liable for later misuse of such products is absurd.”
It’s akin to suing Ford for a death due to a drunk driver crashing his F-150 truck.
Blue-state Democratic governors may continue attacking the firearm industry and pushing gun restrictions on law-abiding citizens while criminals will keep ignoring laws and committing crimes. The reality is the only thing these governors are doing is wasting taxpayer dollars on legal defenses for their unconstitutional laws.
Larry Keane is SVP for Government and Public Affairs, Assistant Secretary and General Counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.