New York’s Landmark Bill to Hold the Gun Industry Accountable Could Serve As a Template for Other States
A first-in-the-nation bill heading to Governor Cuomo’s desk would allow victims of gun violence to seek justice for negligent, unreasonable and, in some cases, illegal conduct perpetrated by the gun industry — an industry that for years has been shielded from litigation by a federal law called the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (“PLCAA”). On top of its implications for New Yorkers, this innovative legislation could serve as an important roadmap for other states to follow in the fight for gun violence prevention — creating opportunities to ensure accountability from an industry that has skirted the kind of major litigation that brought reform to the tobacco, opioid, and automobile industries, a luxury that has for too long enabled bad actors to continue operating with impunity, causing harm in communities across New York.
The gun industry has the information and tools to innovate and identify bad actors, but PLCAA has eliminated legal incentives for that industry to make firearms safer or to engage in responsible sales practices. For instance, 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 use of firearms by children.
- Compel gunmakers to stop selling to bad-apple dealers who fuel the criminal market, have poor safety practices or training, or are not willing to use basic security measures to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.
- Hold accountable gun dealers who’ve taken no steps to secure their premises or inventory when their guns are stolen and then used in crime.
The results of PLCAA have been devastating and contribute significantly to the gun violence epidemic, not just in New York, but across the country.
According to the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), between 2012 and 2020, more than 150,000 firearms were reported to be lost by or stolen from dealers across the country. The ATF 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.
- Additionally, according to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, just 5% of gun dealers supply over 90% of firearms recovered by law enforcement at crime scenes and from illegal possessors.
New York’s bill, sponsored by State Senator Zellnor Myrie and Assemblymember Patricia Fahy, would help put an end to these harmful, dangerous practices by creating a path to accountability long-foreclosed by PLCAA, marking a new chapter in the gun violence prevention movement.
The bill, S7196/A6762B, would allow victims of gun violence and other state authorities to file suit against gun industry members whose unlawful or unreasonable conduct results in harm in New York and those who fail to take reasonable steps to keep their products out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.
- The bill would create an affirmative requirement for gun manufacturers and dealers to put safeguards in place to address gun dealers, wholesalers, and manufacturers 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. Those who failed to do so would be subject to lawsuits by those who are harmed as a result.