A: Firearm dealers and manufacturers can not be sued for the misuse of their products unless the dealer or manufacturer made/sold the product negligently.
Suing Gun Companies
Gun companies, like any other company, can be sued for a variety of reasons. Lawsuits against gun companies can include things like product liability, contract issues, etc.
Lawsuits for the criminal misuse of firearms, however, are prohibited by federal law.
Of course, there are exemptions to this protection. If the gun company is negligent in how they make, sell, or market the firearm, then they do not get the protection against being sued for the misuse of their firearms.
This federal law that protect firearm companies is the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) from 2005.
Prior to PLCAA, the firearms industry was facing numerous lawsuits and without this protection, gun companies may not exist today.
Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act
The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act protects gun companies from lawsuits about the misuse of firearms (in crimes) as long as the firearm manufacturer, distributor, or dealer does not behave negligently.
So, who/what is protected from firearm misuse lawsuits? Those engaged in the business of making or selling firearms.
Someone engaged in the business of the firearms industry needs to have a Federal Firearms License (FFL).
Those with an FFL, as long as they aren’t negligent, are protected form lawsuits about the criminal misuse of firearms per PLCAA.
When is a gun company negligent and open to a lawsuit? When they make or sell the firearm in violation of other laws, or if they have a reckless disregard for safety.
PLCAA in Action
Parents of victims from the Newtown, CT school shooting sued Remington Arms Company for marketing and selling the AR-15 style rifle that the shooter used.
PLCAA should insulate Remington here because the criminal misuse of their firearm is not their fault. However, the plaintiffs claim that Remington was negligent. If the plaintiffs win this argument, then PLCAA won’t protect Remington.
This would have a serious shockwave in our industry.
On March 14th, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that Remington was negligent and therefore was subject to being sued by the victim’s families.
It will be very interesting to see what happens with this case as it will clearly affect the firearms industry.
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