Legislation Creates Clear Path for Accountability Despite Extraordinary Protections Offered to Firearms Industry – Protections Granted by Gun Lobby-Backed Federal Law
Under Proposed New Law, Irresponsible Gun Manufacturers, Wholesalers and Retailers Can Now Be Held Responsible By Victims of Gun Violence
Audio of the press call is available HERE
NEW YORK – Today, Moms Demand Action Founder Shannon Watts, New York lawmakers Senator Zellnor Y. Myrie and Assemblymember Patricia Fahy, and veteran litigator Josh Koskoff held a press call to discuss the power behind New York’s first-of-its-kind legislation to make it possible to hold irresponsible actors within the firearms industry accountable in New York despite the industry’s current broad and special protection from civil liability. The speakers detailed:
- The types of litigation the gun industry could face if Gov. Cuomo signs this bill into law
- How litigation (and the mere prospect of it) could bring sweeping changes to the firearms industry, the way legal accountability has spurred changed in the tobacco, opioid and automobile industries
- The need for other states to replicate this measure in order to create new opportunities to hold the gun industry accountable
“For far too long, our laws have protected the worst actors in the gun industry from liability, while leaving communities from Brownsville to Buffalo exposed and vulnerable,” said Senator Zellnor Y. Myrie (D — Brooklyn). “Our legislation finally levels the playing field, and gives New Yorkers an opportunity to hold reckless gun companies accountable for their irresponsible actions. I’m grateful to my partner Assemblywoman Fahy, advocates like Everytown and Moms Demand Action, and the countless survivors and local groups who helped make this moment possible. I look forward to the Governor signing this bill into law.”
“We are again leading the country on common sense gun violence measures here in New York,” said Assemblymember Patricia Fahy (D — Albany). “New York’s first in the nation legislation will allow gun manufacturers who supply the flow of illegal guns into our communities from Upstate to downstate to be held accountable, and civilly liable for their misconduct. I thank legislative partner Senator Zellnor Myrie, Moms Demand Action, Everytown, Brady, New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, and so many more who worked to get this landmark legislation over the finish line this year.”
“Across so many industries — from automobiles, to tobacco, to consumer products and even opioid manufacturers — legal accountability has driven innovation, new safety features and responsible sales and marketing practices, all designed to save lives. But because the gun lobby convinced Congress to grant them special protection, the firearms industry has mostly been shielded from such lawsuits and from accountability for their misconduct,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action. “New York has found the weak spot in the gun industry’s armor of legal protection. This bill can be a turning point for the national gun safety movement — and our organization will be working to replicate what New York has done in states across the country.”
“Any industry that can’t be sued for irresponsible business practices is a dangerous industry,” said Josh Koskoff, a litigator who has represented victims of gun violence in major litigation, including a landmark lawsuit brought against the Remington Arms Company on behalf of 10 families of victims of the Sandy Hook School mass shooting. “When that industry is one that manufactures and sells deadly weapons, it is an existential threat to public safety.”
Since 2005, a federal law called the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (“PLCAA”) has shielded bad actor gun manufacturers and dealers from most lawsuits, creating a culture of impunity within the industry. PLCAA allows the firearm industry to avoid accountability for the consequences of their negligent, unreasonable and, in some cases, illegal conduct — making it too easy to fend off the kind of litigation that brought major changes to the opioid, tobacco and auto industries.
There is an exception to the PLCAA shield for gun dealers and manufacturers whose misconduct violates state law, and the New York bill makes clear that gun companies that engage in illegal or unreasonable conduct and thereby create a public nuisance in New York can be sued for it. The bill also requires all gun companies who do business in New York to put in place reasonable safeguards to prevent their guns from ending up in the hands of people who shouldn’t have them, subjecting those who fail to do so to civil liability.
The gun industry has the information and tools to innovate, but PLCAA has eliminated legal incentives for that industry to make firearms safer or to engage in responsible sales practices:
- PLCAA blocks most litigation that could incentivize gun manufacturers to design its products more safely, including the addition of simple safety features that have been available for years that could prevent unauthorized access and use by children.
- PLCAA also blocks legal claims that could compel gunmakers to stop selling to those wholesalers and dealers who fuel the criminal market, have poor safety practices or training, or are not willing to use basic security measures or record every sale on video.
- Gun manufacturers received nearly two million pieces of data about firearms recovered at crime scenes or in criminal investigations between 2010 and 2019.
- Yet with all of this information available, gunmakers have little incentive to stop irresponsibly supplying those dealers who cater to the criminal market—because PLCAA removes the threat of being held accountable for their inaction.
- This bill would create an affirmative requirement for gun manufacturers and dealers to put these types of safeguards in place to the extent they sell their products in or into New York. Those who failed to do so would be subject to lawsuits by those who are harmed as a result.
- Another source of crime guns are those stolen from gun dealers, and PLCAA shields the gun dealers who’ve taken no steps to secure their premises when their guns are stolen and then used in crime.
- Between 2012 and 2020, more than 150,000 firearms were reported to be lost by or stolen from dealers across the country.
- The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives makes a number of recommendations regarding store security, but the choice is up to the industry on whether to implement any of them, including keeping accurate and up to date inventory or utilizing locks and bars to protect against burglary.
- This bill requires all industry members whose guns are sold in New York State to institute theft-prevention measures.