Gun lobby-backed politicians passed a law, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA),115 U.S.C. § 7902 (2005). that shields bad actors within the gun industry from being held accountable for dangerous products or irresponsible business practices that harm people and endanger public safety. PLCAA gives the gun lobby’s corporate donors special protections that are not afforded to other industries, and it should be repealed.
Gun lobby-backed elected officials provided bad actors in the gun industry with unique and broad special protections, placing special interests above public safety.
In 2005, the NRA’s number one legislative priority was PLCAA, and the organization celebrated the passage of PLCAA on the day it was signed, calling it the “most significant piece of pro-gun legislation in twenty years.”2NRA-ILA Press Release, “President Bush Signs ‘Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act’—Landmark NRA Victory Now Law,” press release, October 26, 2005, https://bit.ly/3co9Aq0.
PLCAA gives bad actors in the gun industry broad protection from civil lawsuits, preventing many people injured by guns from holding them accountable in court – even when the business acted dangerously or irresponsibly.
For decades, NRA-backed politicians have stopped progress on gun safety and protected bad actors in the gun industry, out of fear of losing money from their gun lobby donors and its corporate backers. At the time PLCAA was passed, an industry insider estimated that corporate gun manufacturers had incurred litigation costs in excess of $200 million3House Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law, Testimony of Lawrence G. Keane, Senior Vice PResident & General Counsel National Shooting Sports FOundation, Inc. in Support of “Protection of Lawful COmmerce in Arms Act” (H.R. 800), March 15, 2005. – but because PLCAA protects manufacturers from similar costs today, that money can go back into the pockets of politicians in Washington.
Politicians have allowed the gun industry’s bad actors and their irresponsible decisions to get special protections even though they cause gun violence.
A person harmed by a consumer product other than guns – like opioids or cars – can generally bring a claim in court to recover damages if they can show the manufacturer designed a defective product or otherwise acted dangerously or irresponsibly. PLCAA is one of the biggest giveaways in American history, giving bad actors in the gun industry more protection from litigation than makers of cars, opioids, or tobacco products.4See J. S. Vernick, L. Rutkow, and D. A. Salmon, “Availability of Litigation as a Public Health Tool for Firearm Injury Prevention: Comparison of Guns, Vaccines, and Motor Vehicles,” American Journal of Public Health 97, no. 11 (2007): 1991–97.
PLCAA protects the gun sellers who fuel city gun violence, have poor safety practices or training, or are not willing to use basic security measures. For example, gun sellers who allow unstable individuals or criminals to access guns get special protection, like the seller who let a man wearing only a garbage bag take a gun from his store — and was not able to be held accountable for his actions. 5Estate of Kim v. Coxe, 295 P.3d 380 (Alaska 2013),
Between 2012 and 2019, nearly 140,000 firearms were reported lost by or stolen from dealers across the country.6Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Data & Statistics, accessed April 17, 2020, https://bit.ly/3a9Tj6r. Some thefts are unavoidable, but PLCAA shields those gun dealers who’ve taken zero steps to secure their premises when their guns are predictably—and preventably—stolen and then used in crime.
PLCAA blocks most litigation about gunmakers’ dangerous decisions not to include simple safety features that have been available for years, features that could prevent unauthorized access by children and teens. Hundreds of children and teenagers unintentionally shoot themselves or others every year with guns,7Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, #NotAnAccident Index, accessed April 17, 2020, https://every.tw/3cl3PcB. often when gun owners leave guns within easy reach of children. The gun industry knows it could take steps to design safer firearms—for example, childproofing technologies that would make unintentional shootings less likely—but instead the industry’s irresponsible decisions are protected and its bad actors have no incentive to change.
The gun lobby has spent decades convincing elected officials to provide its corporate donors with dangerous special protections.
Gun lobby-backed politicians have consistently favored their gun lobby donors over the people they represent, creating loopholes for their donors at every turn that put profits over people and safety.
Loopholes and special protections have been put in place that gut strong laws—making gun sales more dangerous, creating loopholes in our background check laws, stopping the wide release of information about which gun dealers supply crime guns, and ensuring that guns are not subject to the consumer protection laws that cover nearly every other product. And one of the most blatant of these special protections is PLCAA—a law that creates a series of loopholes in our legal system to give the gun industry broad protection from liability, all to protect politicians’ donors.