BLUMENTHAL, SCHIFF, & MURPHY INTRODUCE BILL TO REPEAL THE GUN INDUSTRY’S LEGAL LIABILITY SHIELD
[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and U.S. Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) led 78 Members of Congress, including U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) and U.S. Representatives Dwight Evans (D-PA) and Jason Crow (D-CO), in reintroducing the bicameral Equal Access to Justice for Victims of Gun Violence Act, legislation to ensure that victims of gun violence have their day in court and that negligent gun companies and gun sellers are not shielded from liability when they disregard public safety. The bill would repeal the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), passed by Congress in 2005, which gives the gun industry a unique and unjustifiable legal liability shield that protects gun manufacturers from lawsuits.
“The gun industry’s legal immunity has given it a free pass to negligently manufacture and distribute weapons of war – often with devastating consequences for communities across the country,” said Blumenthal. “Repealing PLCAA’s protective shield will hold manufacturers accountable for wrongdoing and allow victims, survivors, and families to seek justice. Those impacted by our gun violence epidemic deserve their day in court. Passing this measure and ending the industry’s sweetheart deal is long overdue.”
“Gun violence continues to take the lives of ordinary Americans every day, because Washington refuses to hold the gun industry accountable. I’m reintroducing my bill to repeal the liability shield that wrongly protects negligent gun makers and dealers from lawsuits. We must not let gun manufacturers get away with reckless practices that have life or death consequences for our kids, our parents, and our neighbors,” said Schiff.
“There’s absolutely no reason why the gun industry should get special treatment when it comes to negligence. Their immunity from lawsuits effectively gives them a license to kill. It’s past time for Congress to repeal PLCAA and allow gun violence victims their day in court,” said Murphy.
“As someone who’s advocated for this concept in Pennsylvania’s legislature and now in Congress, I’m proud to be a co-lead on Congressman Schiff’s bill to restore this basic right of victims and survivors. So many American gun deaths could be avoided if we held these companies accountable for things like illegal sales, defective guns and irresponsible marketing. State attorneys general were able to hold Big Tobacco accountable in the 1990s, and they should be able to hold gun manufacturing companies accountable in the 21st century since thousands of lives depend on it. This legislation would be another tool in the toolbox to protect our citizens from gun violence,” said Evans.
“Gun violence is tearing our communities apart. Victims and survivors should be able to hold the gun industry accountable for negligent behavior, but under current law they’re protected from liability,” said Crow. “The PLCAA further burdens family members who are seeking justice for the loss of their loved ones. We’re introducing this bill to repeal the legislation barring the gun industry from liability and loosen the grip the gun lobby has on our lives.”
When Congress passed PLCAA, its supporters argued that it was necessary to protect the gun industry from frivolous lawsuits, and that victims of gun violence would not be shut out of the courts. In reality, numerous cases around the nation have been dismissed on the basis of PLCAA, even when the gun dealers and manufacturers acted in a fashion that would qualify as negligent if it involved any other product. Victims in these cases were denied the right to even discover or introduce evidence. This legislation allows civil cases to go forward against irresponsible bad actors.
In 2005, the National Rifle Association (NRA) identified PLCAA as their “number one” legislative priority, and the NRA celebrated the passage calling it the “most significant piece of pro-gun legislation in twenty years.” Letting courts hear these cases would provide justice to victims and their families, while creating incentives for responsible business practices that would reduce injuries and deaths. Effectively, the gun industry would once again be subject to the same laws as every other industry, just as it was prior to 2005.
The legislation is endorsed by Brady United Against Gun Violence, Giffords, Newtown Action Alliance, Everytown for Gun Safety, Guns Down America, Sandy Hook Promise Action Fund, and March for Our Lives.
“Whether it’s by making their products deadlier, marketing them in irresponsible ways, or continuing to supply rogue gun dealers, the decisions made in the gun industry’s corporate boardrooms have a direct impact on America’s gun violence epidemic,” said John Feinblatt, President of Everytown for Gun Safety. “We’re proud to stand with Senator Blumenthal and Representative Schiff as they work to hold the gun industry accountable and ensure they play by the same rules as every other industry.”
“Repealing the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) is long overdue. We cannot continue to allow special carveouts and legal exemptions for gun manufacturers, distributors, and dealers to take away the right of victims of gun violence to have their day in court,” said Mark Barden, co-founder and CEO of the Sandy Hook Promise Action Fund and father of Daniel, who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy. “We thank Senator Blumenthal for his leadership in introducing the Equal Access to Justice for Victims of Gun Violence Act of 2023.”
“Firearms manufacturers sell the single deadliest consumer product in this country. More kids are killed by their guns than anything else,” said Elena Perez, Senior Policy Associate at March For Our Lives. “Yet they’re held to a lower standard of responsibility than refrigerator manufacturers, or bicycle manufacturers, or practically any other company in America. Thanks to PLCAA, in America today, the gun industry is above the law. That’s wrong. We’re glad to support this bill to right a terrible wrong, to hold the gun industry accountable, and to give victims of gun violence their day in court.”
“For far too long, the gun lobby has been able to deny survivors of gun violence their day in court because it is one of the only industries in the country that’s been given broad immunity even while it continues to market a product that is leading to thousands of Americans dying every year. I’m grateful for the leadership of Rep. Schiff, Evans, and Crow on this critical issue,” said Shannon Grady, Interim Executive Director of Guns Down America.
“Since PLCAA was passed in 2005, we have lost hundreds of thousands of American lives to gun violence. All the while, PLCAA-enforced barriers have often barred survivors and their families from having access to rightful justice against negligent firearm manufacturers, dealers, and distributors. Until the gun industry is subject to the same accountability as every other industry and incentivized to act responsibly, they will continue to aid and abet this public health crisis robbing us of American lives in the process. Brady is grateful to Congressman Schiff and Senator Blumenthal for reintroducing this vital legislation and forging a path towards justice for those impacted by the gun industry’s harm,” said Kris Brown, President of Brady.
“My 20-year-old neighbor used an AR-15 to hunt and murder 26 children and educators in Sandy Hook Elementary School. The gun industry has produced 13.7 million more AR-15s making $11 billion since the shooting in our community a decade ago. The gun industry will continue to act recklessly to arm mass shooters with weapons of war and allow illegal guns to seep into communities of color as long as they are not held accountable for the blood shed in America. It’s time for Congress to lift the special legal shield that blocks the vast majority of the gun violence survivors from having their days in court. Newtown Action Alliance urges Congress to urgently pass Senator Blumenthal and Representative Adam Schiff’s bill to repeal PLCAA,” said Po Murray, Chairwoman of Newtown Action Alliance.
“For nearly two decades, the gun industry has enjoyed near-total legal immunity, thanks to the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA). Because of this immunity, it has been nearly impossible to keep the gun industry in check for its dangerous products and careless industry practices, and victims of gun violence have been unable to seek justice in the court in instances where a gun business acted with reckless or blatantly negligent disregard for public safety. The Equal Access to Justice for Victims of Gun Violence Act will repeal PLCAA and allow the public to hold negligent gun dealers and manufacturers accountable. We applaud Senator Blumenthal and Representative Schiff for introducing this legislation and urge Congress to pass it quickly,” said Adzi Vokhiwa, Federal Affairs Director at Giffords.