The National Shooting Sports Foundation announced last week a lawsuit aimed at ending a New York law designed to blame gun makers and sellers for criminal misuse or unlawful possession of their firearms.
Signed by outgoing Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the law would open members of the gun industry to civil lawsuits under the state’s “public nuisance” laws.
Frivolous lawsuits like these have been the holy grail of the anti-gun lobby for decades because they would cripple gun makers and chill Second Amendment rights across the country. Congress passed the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) to prevent these suits, but New York officials believe they have found a way around the law.
“This law is not about making our communities safer but rather, as former Governor Andrew Cuomo once proclaimed, to impose on the firearm industry a ‘death by a thousand cuts.’ Today’s lawsuit will end this unconstitutional attack on the businesses, large and small, vital to Americans’ Second Amendment rights,” said Lawrence G. Keane, NSSF Senior Vice President for Government and Public Affairs and General Counsel.
“Opening up members of the firearm industry to a torrent of baseless civil lawsuits is – as it was in the past – an effort to impose radical gun control policies by litigating the forceful bankruptcy of companies. New York’s baseless law ignores the fact that members of the firearm industry work cooperatively with federal, state, and local authorities for real solutions to help address crimes involving guns.”
The New York law would allow victims of criminal acts to sue a gun maker or distributor in any state if a product was used to “create, maintain or contribute to a condition in New York State that endangers the safety or health of the [New York] public.”
Liability attaches even if such a business follows every applicable federal and state firearm law and regulation in its home jurisdiction, and even if it is unaware its products are in New York, according to the lawsuit.
NSSF’s suit challenges the New York law as preempted by the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) and as unconstitutionally vague in violation of the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution. The lawsuit further challenges the law as an impermissible attempt by New York State to regulate interstate commerce in violation of the Commerce Clause of the Constitution.
The gun industry group has also moved for a preliminary injunction to block the law from taking effect.
New York Attorney General Letitia James has vowed to fight the NSSF in court.
“Once again, the gun lobby is trying to exert total control over this country and thwart common-sense efforts to protect lives,” she tweeted. “Make no mistake: We will aggressively defend this law and won’t back down against their continued attempts to endanger New Yorkers.”
Once again, the gun lobby is trying to exert total control over this country and thwart common-sense efforts to protect lives.— NY AG James (@NewYorkStateAG) December 16, 2021
Make no mistake: We will aggressively defend this law and won’t back down against their continued attempts to endanger New Yorkers. https://t.co/URECnHeFwH