Everytown Filed an Amicus Brief in the Case with Other Local and National Gun Violence Prevention Groups
NEW YORK – Today, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York dismissed a gun industry challenge to New York’s landmark gun industry accountability law. The ruling comes in the wake of the mass shooting in Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas – a predominantly Latinx community – which killed at least 21 people, including 19 students. That shooting came less than two weeks after a white supremacist targeted a grocery store in a Black neighborhood in Buffalo, New York and shot 13 people, killing 10, as they shopped. The law creates a new pathway for victims, their families, and the state of New York to hold bad actors in the gun industry accountable for their role in fueling the epidemic of gun violence that is ravaging communities across the Empire State. The law was being challenged by the National Shooting Sports Foundation and 14 members of the gun industry.
“This ruling should put members of the gun industry on notice: accountability is coming,” said Nick Suplina, senior vice president of law and policy for Everytown for Gun Safety. “Manufacturers and dealers are breaking the law, fueling gun trafficking and glorifying mass violence, and New York’s law will help us demand and obtain justice.”
“For nearly two decades, members of the gun industry have been able to profit from dangerous business practices, arguing that PLCAA – the federal law shielding the gun industry – protects them from any liability,” said Alla Lefkowitz, Senior Director of Affirmative Litigation at Everytown Law. “No longer. New York’s landmark legislation will bring much-needed accountability to the industry and pathway to justice for survivors of the gun violence epidemic in New York. As we’ve said all along, the law is constitutional and instead of running to the courthouse to avoid accountability, the industry should be taking action to reform their business practices and make the products that endanger the New York public safer.”
“These have been a dark two weeks. Black people slain while shopping in Buffalo, a commuter shot dead on the train I take every week in Brooklyn, and children mercilessly massacred in Texas. We’ve needed some good news in the fight to end gun violence and the court’s decision today is just that,” said Senator Zellnor Myrie, who sponsored New York’s bill in the Senate. “We passed this first-in-the-nation law for one reason: to protect New Yorkers from gun violence and hold bad actors in the gun industry who help facilitate that violence accountable. I am glad to see that the Court agreed with us and commend our Attorney General for vigorously defending the constitutionality of the law and her ability to hold these bad actors accountable. The gun industry has put their profits over our lives for too long. New Yorkers are tired of bending to their will, and the Court’s decision today is another step in the direction of justice for all who have been impacted by gun violence. I hope every state in the nation is paying attention — federal inaction is not an excuse. This is your moment to step up.”
“Last year, New York became the first state in the nation to repeal protections for negligent gun manufacturers under the disastrous federal law known as the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA),” said Assemblymember Patricia Fahy, who sponsored New York’s bill in the Assembly. “Due to PLCAA, only one industry in the United States enjoys special protection from civil liability under federal law for negligence in the use of their products; the gun industry. Today’s ruling upholds this landmark legislation and will allow gun manufacturers who are knowingly utilizing bad actors and dealers to market their products, to be held civilly liable for the damage they cause on our streets. New York has led the nation on gun legislation — and in the face of more devastating mass shootings in recent weeks, we must be more vigilant than ever in helping to keep New Yorkers safe from the scourge of gun violence. I’m proud to have sponsored this legislation with Senator Myrie, and thank Everytown for Gun Safety for helping to defend NY’s Gun Industry Liability Law. It is one of the most effective tools we can leverage in the fight against gun violence in New York State.”
The amicus brief filed on behalf of Everytown and local and national gun violence prevention groups focused on four main points:
- Providing a factual and historic background on the connection between gun industry practices and increasing gun violence in New York State.
- Explaining that the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) expressly allows states to pass laws that apply to how firearms and ammunition are sold and marketed – just like the law that New York passed. PLCAA does not protect members of the gun industry that knowingly violate those statutes.
- New York’s landmark legislation does not discriminate against out-of-state members of the gun industry – it treats gun industry members evenhandedly based on their conduct, not their location. Therefore, the legislation does not violate the dormant Commerce Clause.
- New York’s landmark legislation simply requires members of the gun industry to take reasonable steps to prevent their products from being diverted into the criminal market in New York – a market which is fueling New York’s dire and escalating gun violence crisis.
When Congress wrongly passed the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), it specifically provided an exception for lawsuits relying on violations of federal or state laws applicable to the sale or marketing of firearms. New York’s law is just such a statute: by relying on this exception in PLCAA, the new provisions created by this legislation allow lawsuits to proceed against gun manufacturers, wholesalers, and dealers whose misconduct harms New Yorkers. Lawmakers in California and New Jersey are considering similar legislation.