Democrats target gun manufacturers for crippling lawsuits

June 18, 2019


Matthew Hoy

Democrats Rep. Adam Schiff and Sen. Richard Blumenthal are among those pushing for the repeal of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act which protects gun manufacturers from frivolous lawsuits when a criminal decides to use their legal product for illegal acts, especially mass shootings.

For several years in the early 2000s, the anti-gun left had been trying to accomplish in the courts what it couldn't accomplish legislatively—the evisceration of the 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms. Despite their rote claims to respect the 2nd Amendment, but wanting to pass "commonsense" restrictions, shooting victims, or their survivors, were suing gun manufacturers for the civil damages based upon the acts of criminals.

Democrats are big fans of lawsuits

A piece by D. Watkins last week in Salon, illustrates the dishonesty of those wanting to repeal the PLCAA and expose manufacturers to civil liability when crimes are committed with their products.

Today is the third anniversary of the massacre at Pulse Night club in Orlando, Florida. As we take time to celebrate the culture and bravery of our LBGTQIA citizens, we must also remember the 49 victims who were murdered in the most dangerous attack against the LBGTQIA community in history, and the role that irresponsible gun culture plays in such attacks.

[The shooter]*, the monster responsible for that attack, bought his guns legally from the St. Lucie Shooting Center. The St. Lucie Shooting Center didn’t break any laws when selling [him] the guns; however, if the store had faced lawsuits by survivors or victims after the shootings, the owners might reconsider their screening processes.

Now imagine the gun store is a bakery that doesn't want to sell a wedding cake to a gay couple. More seriously, the shooter had passed a federal background check. You can bet that a refusal to sell the shooter a firearm based upon the kind of subjective screening processes that Watkins endorses here would quickly earn the store lawsuits from CAIR or other organizations, and rightly so.

Now House and Senate Democrats have introduced a bill that would allow shooting victims to sue gun companies, according to an NPR report.

The Equal Access to Justice for Victims of Gun Violence Act, cosponsored by Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., would strip away federal protection from gun dealers, makers and traders when their products are used to commit crimes.

"Responsible actors in the gun industry don't need this limitation on liability.” Schiff told reporters at a press conference announcing the bill. “And the irresponsible ones don't deserve it."

Considering the wide variety of firearms that have been used in mass shootings across this country over the past 50 years—everything from bolt-action hunting rifles to AR-15 pattern rifles to shotguns to handguns in calibers as small as .22lr—it's difficult to see which gun manufacturers wouldn't find themselves facing lawsuits.

Would that some reporter had asked Schiff which gun manufacturers in this country he considered "responsible."

Democrats love to compare gun ownership to cars…until they don't

Lawrence Keane of the National Shooting Sports Foundation and other gun advocates are already prepared to work to kill the bill, which he is calling "fundamentally unfair."

"You would no more charge or blame Ford or General Motors for drunk driving accidents," Keane said, before stating that the current law is "working exactly how Congress intended it."

I’m not sure why Keane doesn’t understand that cars are made to drive and guns are made to kill. Mass shootings happen almost daily in the U.S. now; so far, we have had close to 150 in 2019. There aren’t comparable stats for people intentionally driving Ford or GM cars into crowds of people, killing and wounding those gathered in churches and at music festivals.

Cars are made to drive, yet people use them when they are inebriated and end up killing other people. And motor vehicles are used in ways that manufacturers do not intend. The 2016 Nice, France, truck attack killed 86—more than any single mass shooting in this country—yet no one sought to file suit against Renault.

Restricted Arms has yet to hear of a case where a car dealer or manufacturer was sued for failing to determine that someone they sold a car to had a history of drunk driving. We can identify no lawsuit against Mazda for anyone hurt by a driver of their cars—either under the influence or simply reckless driving—based upon that manufacturer's marketing.

No one makes guns for mass shootings

Similarly, though Watkins is loath to admit it, gun manufacturers don't make their guns to be used by criminals in mass shootings. They make firearms so people can use them legally for self-defense, for target practice and training, and for hunting. Yet, Watkins wants to unleash lawyers to file lawsuit after lawsuit that would do nothing to stop mass shooters.

Instead, in a best case scenario, such lawsuits would have the effect of dramatically raising the price of firearms and ammunition (don't think ammo makers are going to to escape the sights of trial lawyers). In the worst case scenario, firearms companies will be forced out of business and the 2nd Amendment will become a dead letter simply because no one can afford the inevitable lawsuits that come along with gun manufacturing.

This effort to repeal the PLCAA will go nowhere as long as the GOP controls the Senate, but it's important to remember what exactly Democrats are proposing here: Nothing less than the destruction of all gun manufacturers in the United States.

*Restricted Arms does not name those who commit mass shootings in order to deprive them of the notoriety they so often seek.

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