The Biden administration is zeroing in on repealing the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) and White House officials are enlisting help from antigun state lawmakers to do it.
The White House released a readout of a meeting held by Julie Chavez Rodriguez, Senior Advisor to the President and White House Intergovernmental Affairs Director, with other White House officials and 10 state lawmakers from New York, Delaware, California and Illinois. The meeting was “to discuss how states are leading the way in efforts to hold gun manufacturers accountable.”
The Biden administration is putting full efforts behind states to do all they can to undermine, challenge and work to repeal the PLCAA. That’s the bipartisan federal law that prevents frivolous lawsuits against members of the firearm industry for the criminal and unlawful misuse by remote third parties of lawfully sold firearms.
The meeting came on the same day California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a state law to allow private citizens to bring lawsuits against modern sporting rifle (MSR) and privately-made firearm manufacturers and retailers anywhere in the country.
“It’s time to put them on the defense,” Gov. Newsom said. “You cannot sell, you cannot manufacture, you cannot transfer these illegal weapons of war and mass destruction in the state of California. And if you do, there are 40 million people that can collect $10,000 from you, and attorney fees, for engaging in that illegal activity.”
Gov. Newsom’s law was drafted in reaction to a Texas law that allows private parties to sue over abortion. His assertions that MSRs and privately-made firearms are “illegal weapons of war” is dubious at best.
California’s ban on MSR sales to adults under 21 was ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in May. The U.S. Supreme Court sent back to the Ninth Circuit a case challenging California’s standard capacity magazine ban for “GVR” – or for grant, vacate, and remand – following the Bruen decision that struck down lower courts’ use of the unconstitutional application of the “interest-bearing” test.
New York State of Mind
California isn’t alone in passing laws to drag firearm manufacturers into court. New York’s disgraced former Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a similar law earlier this year. NSSF is challenging that law.
Of course, Cuomo is also the one who infamously promoted these lawsuits against the industry in 1990s as a “death through a thousand cuts” when he was part of the Clinton administration. Delaware’s Democratic Gov. John Carney signed a similar law, bowing to pressure to support the White House as President Joe Biden’s home state.
This is no surprise. President Biden called firearm manufacturers “the enemy” from the debate stage during his White House run. He’s also repeatedly been called out for spreading lies about what PLCAA does and doesn’t do.
The PLCAA simply codifies basic tort law. Prior to the law being signed in 2005, there were dozens of politically motivated junk lawsuits chiefly filed by an unholy alliance of mayors from crime ridden cities, lawyers from Handgun Control Inc., rebranded the Brady Center, and greedy trial lawyers.
The PLCAA largely put a stop to these junk lawsuits that sought to bankrupt the industry, blaming us for their failure to stop crime. Gun control zealots continue to file lawsuits to challenge the PLCAA that has even been defended as Constitutional by Attorney General Merrick Garland.
It’s worth noting that nothing in the White House’s discussions about accountability for crimes committed with firearms involves actually holding criminals accountable. That’s telling when the U.S. Sentencing Commission just released a report that showed nearly 90 percent of convicted felons that illegally used a firearm were already prohibited from possessing one in the first place. None of these proposals or state laws actually enforces the law to protect communities from criminals.
This is political blame-shifting and scapegoating. The PLCAA isn’t the obstacle. The White House’s distaste for the law shows that it isn’t the law they don’t like. It’s the Constitution.
Larry Keane is SVP for Government and Public Affairs, Assistant Secretary and General Counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.