Brief: Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) Expressly Allows States to Enact Statutes Regulating Sale, Marketing of Firearms
Filing Comes as Gun Industry Faces Increased Accountability Across the Country
NEW YORK – Today, Everytown for Gun Safety, Brady, Giffords Law Center, New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, the Rohan Levy Foundation, and two leading New York violence intervention advocates filed an amicus brief in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York in support of New York’s landmark gun industry accountability legislation. The law created a new pathway for victims, their families, and the state of New York to hold 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 is being challenged by the National Shooting Sports Foundation and 14 members of the gun industry.
“We’re proud to support New York’s historic legislation, which has real power to save lives and bring legal accountability to an industry that has spent decades stonewalling any efforts to make its sales practices safer,” said Alla Lefkowitz, Senior Director of Affirmative Litigation at Everytown Law. “Members of the gun industry have important roles to play in mitigating the epidemic that their own business practices have caused – but instead, they’ve once again chosen to focus their efforts on dodging accountability.”
“The law at issue in this case says that the gun industry cannot knowingly or recklessly endanger the health and safety of the public,” said David Pucino, Deputy Chief Counsel, Giffords Law Center. “That idea is common sense in most industries, but the NSSF called it ‘abhorrent’ and vowed to challenge the law the very day it was passed. The lawsuit the NSSF and its industry allies finally filed five months later is without merit, and we are proud to support Attorney General James as she defends this important law and the commonsense principles it stands for.”
“No industry should be above the law that governs every other business and person in America, especially not an industry that profits from and contributes to an epidemic that kills over 40,000 Americans every year,” stated Brady Chief Counsel Jonathan Lowy. “New York has every right to require the gun industry to act responsibly, and the industry’s challenge to New York’s law is meritless, as federal law permits states to pass laws just like New York has that allows residents to hold the gun industry accountable for their role and actions in facilitating gun violence. New York Attorney General James is right to defend this important law, just as the state legislature was right to pass it. We are confident that it will survive this challenge.”
“Gun violence is devastating communities across New York State – from Rochester to Albany and down through New York City –and yet reckless gun dealers are rarely held accountable for these tragedies,” said Rebecca Fischer, Executive Director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence. The NSSF’s challenge to New York’s public safety law is a meritless attempt to block New York from protecting its residents. The NSSF’s desire to continue profiting off the lives of innocent New Yorkers does not trump New York State’s right to hold the gun industry liable for practices that are knowingly harmful. We stand with NYS Attorney General Letitia James as she defends New York’s life-saving law.”
The amicus brief focuses 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.