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THIS WEEK IN THE COURTS: Everytown and Moms Demand Action Call on Second Circuit Court of Appeals to Uphold New York’s Historic Law to Hold the Gun Industry Accountable

November 3, 2023

NEW YORK, NY – Today, Everytown for Gun Safety and the New York chapter of Moms Demand Action held a press briefing with Senator Zellnor Myrie and Mount Vernon Mayor Shawyn Patterson Howard to call on the Second Circuit to uphold New York’s historic gun industry accountability law as the court hears oral arguments in NSSF v. James, a challenge brought forward by the gun lobby.

Senator Zellnor Myrie, who authored New York’s law, spoke about the impact of gun violence on New York’s communities and the necessity of New York’s law to hold the gun industry accountable: 

“This is about the girl in the Bronx who cannot walk to school without being shot and killed. This is about the families of young men in my district who are shot and injured for life at the hands of gunfire … This is about the fact that the number one killer of our young people, our children, our babies – it’s guns. And, in every other industry in our entire corporate ecosystem, when you manufacture, market, distribute or produce a product that harms the public, there is access to justice, there is some recourse, there is some redress. But, the gun industry has stood alone in this corporate ecosystem, enjoying an immunity for bad actors in their industry. That’s what this law and today’s oral argument is about.”

Mayor Shawyn Patterson Howard, a co-chair of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, spoke about the absurdity of gun industry immunity:

“But here’s the grim reality we face: the firearms industry, which plays a  significant role in our gun violence epidemic, is rarely held accountable for its reckless and deadly behavior. How can we, as a society, accept that no industry should be above the law, yet one that contributes to the deaths of over 40,000 Americans each year is granted immunity.”

Nick Suplina, Senior Vice President for Law and Policy at Everytown for Gun Safety, spoke about the importance of New York’s law in holding the gun industry accountable:

“Without it [New York’s industry accountability law], the gun industry will continue making, selling, and marketing the deadly weapons that are fueling our gun violence epidemic — like the untraceable ghost guns that can be made from DIY kits purchased online. The gun industry will continue creating and maintaining a shoddy distribution system that allows guns to flow from the legal market to illegal markets every day, then cries foul when the ATF shuts down gun dealers who fail to conduct background checks, falsify records, and aid and abet traffickers. And the gun industry will continue using dangerous and irresponsible marketing tactics — targeting children and teens who are too young to purchase firearms; using militaristic imagery centering assault weapons as the tools of protectors and patriots; and exploiting fear and political tensions — all to boost sales.”

Marie Delus, a Marine Corp Veteran, Moms Demand Action volunteer and survivor of gun violence spoke about her personal story and why she believes it is critical that the gun industry is held accountable just like any other consumer product industry:

“My own son and my nephew Pierre-Paul Jean Paul were both shot, both survived. But then on November 11, 2008, Pierre-Paul was shot again on the streets of Cambria Heights, Queens. This time he was not so lucky, he died; the bullet pierced his heart. My family buried Pipo and moved on with our lives. As a resident of Brooklyn and at one time Queens, gunshots and deaths by guns are everyday occurrences and unfortunately, as residents, parents, we get used to it and hope that the bullet doesn’t reach our home … One of the most important aspects of the law for me as a Survivor is that the law allows victims of gun-violence to seek justice when the gun industry knowingly endangers public safety … I believe the gun industry should be held responsible and help families heal.”

Mary Amsterdam, a volunteer with the New York chapter of Moms Demand Action spoke about why she believes it is important for the Second Circuit to reject the gun lobby’s claims and uphold New York’s law:

“I am here because I am fed up. I am fed up with thoughts and prayers. I am fed up with inaction in the face of day after day after day gun violence. In our streets, our schools, our houses of worship, our bowling alleys, our night clubs, our concerts. There is no place left unscathed by the scourge of gun violence. And I am sick and tired of inaction even in the face of the chilling reality that guns are the number one killer of our children … So I am here to stand with my fellow advocates to say that it’s time to hold the gun industry accountable. If they won’t do the right thing because it’s the right thing, then maybe they will change their way of operating when it’s no longer quite so profitable.” 

In 2005, gun-lobby-backed legislators in Congress passed legislation, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), to shield the gun industry from most liability. However, PLCAA does have exceptions — and in response to the gun violence epidemic facilitated by the industry, gun-sense legislators in New York took action and passed a first-in-the-nation bill that fit within one of PLCAA’s exceptions. This landmark gun industry accountability law allows victims of gun violence to seek justice when the gun industry knowingly endangers public safety. Following the passage and enactment of New York’s historic law, seven other states followed suit, in each and every instance the gun lobby immediately filed lawsuits to challenge these laws in the courts.

By passing this historic law, New York state established a path to accountability for the gun industry, creating a requirement for gun companies that sell guns into New York to put safeguards into place to address straw purchasing, gun trafficking and theft. New York’s law ensures that members of the gun industry who fail to take these basic steps would be subject to lawsuits if individuals are harmed as a result. Instead of taking steps to implement these basic safety measures, the gun industry filed suit to block the measure. However, the federal district court in Albany rejected each of the industry’s arguments and upheld the law.

Now, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals will hear the case to determine whether New York’s law can stay in effect. 

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