August 19, 2020
By Mark Chesnut
With the increased number of shootings recently in New York City and some other large urban areas, one New York lawmaker is pushing legislation to bypass the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) and allow gunmakers to be sued if their lawfully made products are used for criminal purposes.
State Sen. Zellnor Myrie of Brooklyn justifies his actions with the statement, “Every illegal gun on the street was a legally purchased gun at one time.” Of course, to find their way into illegal hands, the guns had to be stolen or illegally trafficked at some point after they left the manufacturers’ facilities, which means Myrie is absolutely targeting the wrong people in seeking to punish manufacturers.
In fact, for a gun to fall into the hands of a violent criminal in New York City or anywhere else, at least one serious felony has to have occurred. And most felonies associated with illegal firearm transfers carry a five-year prison sentence.
Of course, the PLCAA was designed specifically to keep firearms manufacturers from being forced out of business with lawsuits and red tape if a criminal should use their legal, safe products in the commission of a crime. Passed in 2005, the law was spawned by gun haters attempting to run gunmakers out of business with constant frivolous lawsuits that forced manufacturers to spend millions of dollars fighting those suits.
Andrew Cuomo, then President Bill Clinton’s secretary of housing and urban development (HUD), actually admitted the strategy, warning gun makers that if they did not negotiate with the Clinton administration they would suffer “death by a thousand cuts” from all the lawsuits. And indeed, the lawsuits did run some small manufacturers out of business before Congress managed to pass PLCAA and President George Bush signed it into law.
Myrie’s bill would take a different tact from the complete repeal of PLCAA as suggested by both Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. It would, instead, amend the state’s criminal nuisance law to include the sale or manufacture of products that endanger peoples’ health or safety, enabling New Yorkers to sue companies or individuals who violate the statute.
Given the New York legislature’s strong liberal influence, the measure will likely get more consideration than it should, so all gun manufacturers would be wise to keep it on their radar. Thankfully, courts have upheld the PLCAA multiple times over the years and could do so again in this case, depending on the court and the circumstances.
America’s gunmakers are an important part of the country’s cherished history and have provided arms for use by law-abiding Americans since the country was founded. Any effort to make them responsible for the behavior of criminals is a misplaced one that should be nipped in the bud.
Freelance writer and editor Mark Chesnut is the owner/editorial director at Red Setter Communications LLC. An avid hunter, shooter and political observer, he has been covering Second Amendment issues and politics on a near-daily basis for the past 20 years.