Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act

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The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) is a United States law which protects firearms manufacturers and dealers from being held liable when crimes have been committed with their products. However, both manufacturers and dealers can still be held liable for damages resulting from defective products, breach of contract, criminal misconduct, and other actions for which they are directly responsible in much the same manner that any U.S. based manufacturer of consumer products are held responsible. They may also be held liable for negligence when they have reason to know a gun is intended for use in a crime.

The PLCAA is codified at 15 U.S.C. §§ 7901-7903.


After years of unsuccessful attempts to legislate gun control, proponents of gun control attempted to coerce gun manufacturers and dealers into voluntarily implementing some measures to avoid lawsuits that could put them out of business.[1]

In 1998, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley sued gun makers and dealers saying "We are going to hit them where it hurts, in the wallet".[2] The city of Bridgeport, Connecticut also sued several gun companies. Mayor Joseph Ganim said that the city's action aimed at "creating law with litigation...That's the route that we're going because [the industry has] always very effectively, with big money, lobbied the legislature and kept laws from being passed."[3]

In 2000 Smith & Wesson, facing several state and federal lawsuits, signed an agreement brokered by President Bill Clinton, in which the company voluntarily agreed to implementing various measures in order to settle the suits.[4][5] The agreement required Smith & Wesson to only sell guns through dealers that complied with the restrictions on all guns sold regardless of manufacturer, thus potentially having a much wider potential impact than just Smith & Wesson.[6]

HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo was quoted as saying that gun manufacturers that did not comply would suffer "death by a thousand cuts", and Eliott Spitzer said that those who didn't cooperate would have bankruptcy lawyers "knocking at your door".[7]

In January 2005, New York City passed a law allowing lawsuits against gun manufacturers and dealers that did not voluntarily implement certain gun control measures.[8]

Legislative history[edit]

A similar measure had been rejected by the Senate on March 2, 2004 after it had been combined with an extension to the assault weapons ban into a single piece of legislation.[citation needed]

The act was passed by the U.S. Senate on July 29, 2005, by a vote of 65-31. On October 20, 2005, it was passed by the House of Representatives 283 in favor and 144 opposed.

The final bill passed only after adding an amendment that mandated safety locks on handguns, and after preventing the renewal of the assault weapons ban from being added.[citation needed]

It was signed into law on October 26, 2005, by President George W. Bush and became Public Law 109-92. The National Rifle Association thanked President Bush for signing the Act, for which it had lobbied, describing it as, "...the most significant piece of pro-gun legislation in twenty years into law."[9]


Since the law's passage, there have been two cases taken to a jury trial for damages. In the first, a jury found in favor of a gun store in Alaska after a gun purchased by Jason Coday was used in a murder. The second resulted in a six million dollar verdict against Badger Guns after guns negligently sold there were used to shoot police officers.[10]

Dismissed suits[edit]

The Brady Center and families of victims of the Aurora shooting sued Lucky Gunner, the online store where some of the weapons and ammunition were purchased. Federal judge Richard Paul Matsch dismissed the charges.[11][12] He ordered the plaintiffs to pay Lucky Gunner's legal fees under a separate Colorado law, HB 000-208.[13]

In 2010, the United States Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal in Ileto v. Glock ending a lawsuit against Glock by the family of victims in the Los Angeles Jewish Community Center shooting.[14]

Renewed interest[edit]

After the 2012 Aurora, Colorado and Sandy Hook, Connecticut shooting incidents, a renewed effort has been mounted to repeal the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act to make it possible for victims of gun violence to sue firearms manufacturers and dealers on a broader array of grounds.[1][15][16]

2016 election[edit]

During the 2016 United States presidential election the act became a campaign issue, particularly within the Democratic Party primaries.

Hillary Clinton stated that she would repeal the law if elected[17] saying "They are the only business in America that is wholly protected from any kind of liability. They can sell a gun to someone they know they shouldn't, and they won't be sued. There will be no consequences."[18] Shortly after Clinton made this claim, fact checker Politifact rated the statement false, noting that other businesses and entities in America have similar or greater levels of protection against liability, and that firearms dealers and manufacturers are still susceptible to lawsuits and liability.[19]

Bernie Sanders, who as a senator voted for the law in 2005, defended the law saying "If somebody has a gun and it falls into the hands of a murderer and the murderer kills somebody with a gun, do you hold the gun manufacturer responsible? Not any more than you would hold a hammer company responsible if somebody beats somebody over the head with a hammer."[20][21]

External links[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Munoz, S. Why Isn't The Media Discussing The Unprecedented Law Giving Gun Makers And Dealers Immunity? Media Matters, December 19, 2012.
  2. ^ "Chicago Sues Gun-makers And Retailers The Lawsuit Says Firearms Create A Deadly Public Nuisance. It Follows A Recent Filing By New Orleans.". philly-archives. 
  3. ^ Fred Musante, After Tobacco, Handgun Lawsuits, New York Times (January 31, 1999).
  5. ^ "HUD Archives: Agreement Between Smith && Wesson and the Departments of the Treasury and Housing and Urban Development, Local Governments and States". 
  6. ^ "A Smith & Wesson FAQ". 
  7. ^ "The Rule of Lawyers". 
  8. ^ "Gotham Gazette". 
  9. ^ NRA. President Bush signs Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.
  10. ^ John Diedrich. "As long-awaited trial opens, officers' attorney faults gun store sale". 
  11. ^ Stephen Gutowski. "Judge orders Brady Center to pay ammo dealer’s legal fees after dismissing lawsuit". Fox News. 
  12. ^ "Brady Center ordered to pay ammo dealer's legal fees after failed lawsuit - Washington Times". The Washingtion Times. 
  13. ^
  14. ^ NRA-ILA. "NRA-ILA - U.S. Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Appeal in Ileto v. Glock". NRA-ILA. 
  15. ^ Bissell, H.J. Rolling Back Legal Immunity for the Gun Industry. Daily Kos, Jan 14, 2013.
  16. ^ Miller, Matt (June 15, 2015). "Jury says Rayco Sales wasn’t liable for Simone Kim's murder". KTOO. 
  17. ^ Monica Alba. "Hillary Clinton Unveils Plan for Major New Gun Restrictions". NBC News. 
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ "Bernie Sanders on guns at the debate.". Slate Magazine. 
  21. ^ Adam Lidgett (14 October 2015). "Protection Of Lawful Commerce In Arms Act: The Controversial Gun Law Bernie Sanders Voted For Has Kept Families From Winning Lawsuits". International Business Times.