The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act was designed to keep predatory trial attorneys and anti-gun billionaires like Michael Bloomberg from bankrupting America’s firearms industry through constant and repeated vexatious litigation. Congress recognized that an industry that manufactures legal, beneficial products and sells them to citizens who exercise their constitutionally guaranteed right to keep and bear arms presented a juicy target for lawsuits designed to extract cash from gun makers and hobble their ability to conduct business.
The PLCAA, thus, has been a target of the Civilian Disarmament Industrial Complex since it was enacted in 2005, but none of these attempts has yet succeeded. That, however, hasn’t stopped ambulance-chasing lawyers from repeatedly taking a crack at it.
The latest such effort comes from the Keystone State where the Pennsylvania Superior Court has ruled that the PLCAA is unconstitutional.
[T]he Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 7901-7903, is repugnant to the Constitution of the United States and, therefore, without the force or effect of law.
The facts of the case are that in 2016, a 14-year-old unlawfully accessed a Springfield XD-9 pistol, dropped the magazine, deliberately pointed it at his 13-year-old “friend,” James Gustafson, and then pulled the trigger.
The friend removed the handgun’s clip and therefore believed it “was unloaded, because . . . there were no adequate indicators or warnings to inform him that a live round remained in the chamber.”
In short, the pistol worked properly and exactly as it was designed to do. Not that any of that mattered to the plaintiffs.
They alleged a design defect, because the gun lacked a safety feature to disable it from firing without the clip attached.
Lack of a magazine disconnect is a feature, not a bug. There are very good reasons why most makers of semi-automatic handguns don’t include them.
I bought a handgun almost 30 years ago that had a disconnect and I learned to hate it. It required extra force to insert a magazine, and sometimes a mag wouldn’t unexpectedly drop free, empty or full.
Worse, while searching for the right holster, I ran across one that could press the mag release, leaving me with a handgun that wouldn’t fire. It would eject the magazine a fraction of an inch…just enough to engage the disconnect, but not enough to be visually or tactilely obvious (the handgun did have the advantage of being so ergonomically right in my hand that I could point shoot with fair accuracy right out of the box). Scratch another holster.
Lack of a disconnect has been one of the things I’ve looked for in every semi-auto handgun purchase ever since.
Consider making similar arguments for other products:
I took the cordless drill off the charger. How was I to know it would still run when not plugged in to the wall socket?
I put the car in neutral. It should have automatically engaged the parking brake so the car wouldn’t roll down the hill and run over that kid. Why didn’t it?
The court should have automatically and separately notified me that I was supposed to come to court to contest that speeding ticket.
The computer company should have designed my laptop to detect when my underaged son was downloading porn and automatically block him.
Speeding wasn’t my fault. Ford should have installed a governor that would read speed limit signs on the road and slow me down.
Sadly, if the plaintiffs in this case had only argued that the lack of a magazine disconnect was the only problem, we could laugh and anticipate the state Supreme Court slapping these idiots down with a 2×4. But they didn’t stop there. They attacked the very constitutionality of the PLCAA.
The Gustafsons responded that the PLCAA does not apply here. In the alternative, they argued the Act is unconstitutional, because it (1) overrides Tenth Amendment principles of federalism, (2) cannot be sustained under the Commerce Clause, 5 and (3) violates the Fifth Amendment.
The court’s convoluted, uh, reasoning is bizarre, even for an anti-rights jurisdiction. In effect, they’ve said the PLCAA doesn’t protect Springfield because the written law doesn’t describe the exact chain of events in this case. And even when it does protect them — because the gun was criminally misused — it really doesn’t because Bostock v. Clayton County protects classes that aren’t specifically mentioned in the written Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
Even with extra coffee, I have trouble wrapping my head around that. The Pennsylvania court dismisses the protection due to a volitional criminal act by a third party as “toothless” because all criminal acts are volitional.
In a hypothetically sane world, that court would have looked at what it had just written and ordered a hearing for itself for adjudication of mental incompetence. Certainly on appeal, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court should do so.
But in invoking the Tenth Amendment, the court has this to say:
If Congress can declare, as it did in Section 7901 of the PLCAA, that filing a petition or complaint in a state court to vindicate state rights substantially burdens interstate commerce, then what remains for the States to govern under the Tenth Amendment? Reforming the judicial systems of the States from top to bottom in such a manner goes far afield from the enumerated, limited powers of Congress. This is definitely not the vision that Hamilton, Madison, and the other Founders had in mind when they authored the Constitution. The Federal Government’s claim that filing a state lawsuit, based on a state tort, which arose within the boundaries of that state, is private conduct rising to the level of interstate commerce must fail. The Commerce Clause simply does not stretch that far, and the Tenth Amendment forbids it.
On this I can agree. And it invalidates every federal “gun control” law on the books. Not to mention pretty much every other law not pertaining specifically to federally held lands and it employees.
Properly applied, that reasoning invalidates 99.9% of what the federal government does. Seemingly without realizing it, the Pennsylvania Superior Court just tossed the concept of incorporation.(Although I disagree with the court’s assessment of Hamilton’s “vision.” There’s a reason he objected to the Ninth and Tenth Amendments, and the rest of the Bill of Rights.)
What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. On the bright side, Pennsylvanians still interested in liberty can now use that same Tenth Amendment federalism and non-incorporation argument against gun control laws…if this ruling is allowed to stand. Which, we can all hope, it will not.