A New York state senator has been named “Lawmaker of the Year” by the Michael Bloomberg-funded Everytown for Gun Safety, Moms Demand Action, and Students Demand Action for a bill that attempts to make it easier to hold gun makers responsible for the actions of criminals.
Sen. Zellnor Myrie, a Democrat from Brooklyn, received the “honor” (if you can really call it that) from the gun control lobby just a few weeks after disgraced governor Andrew Cuomo signed Zellnor’s legislation into law. The bill attempts to do an end run around the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which prohibits lawsuits against firearms manufacturers, distributors, and firearm retailers that seek to blame them for criminal activity. Under Myrie’s legislation, the state expanded its public nuisance law to include advertising and marketing by the firearms industry.
Myrie’s bill declares that any company that manufactures, advertises, sells or imports firearms and “knowingly or recklessly” contributes to a situation that endangers public health or safety is a public nuisance and may be sued by the state attorney general, city corporation counsel or private parties on those grounds.
Myrie told THE CITY that a dismissal of a federal court case in which New York City sued multiple gun manufacturers informed his legislation.
In the City of New York v. Beretta U.S.A. Corp. in the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Lytton noted, the city claimed that the gun industry was engaging in careless practices and increasing the risk that its firearms would flow into the black market and ultimately be used in crimes in violation of the state’s public nuisance law.
In 2008, a federal appeals court dismissed the city’s suit, ruling that the gun industry should receive immunity under the PLCAA and that the public nuisance law didn’t specifically apply to gun makers.
The public nuisance law “didn’t directly regulate the firearm industry and their practices, and I saw that case and said, ‘Well, why don’t we craft a law that could?’” Myrie said.
Well, I can think of a few reasons, starting with the fact that companies that abide by the law in making and selling firearms shouldn’t be blamed for the actions of violent criminals any more than a Ford or General Motors should be held responsible for drunk drivers, speeders, or hit-and-run accidents. Myrie’s legislation reminds me of the woman who’s suing McDonalds over an ad for a cheeseburger, which she says looked so good that it caused her to break her Lenten promise not to eat meat. Similarly, cities and individuals in New York can now sue gun makers over their advertising, as long as they allege that the ad campaigns compelled others to pick up a gun and use it in the commission of a crime.
It’s an absurd legal argument, but this probably is the most significant legislative victory for the gun control lobby this year (the other candidate would be Colorado scrapping its firearm preemption law), so it makes some sense that Myrie is getting feted by Everytown and its subsidiaries. Anti-gun organizations from Everytown to Brady have seen litigation as a key part of their strategy for decades now, but the PLCAA has stymied many of their attempts to sue gun makers into oblivion. Anything that anti-gun politicians can do to give those lawsuits a better chance of making it to trial is going to receive the grateful appreciation of activists, though New York’s state law will almost certainly be challenged if and when it’s used. So far, despite the new law being on the books, we haven’t seen any new civil suits filed in New York, though I’m sure the gun control lobby’s attorneys are already working on their litigation strategy.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation’s Larry Keane told Bearing Arms earlier this year that Myrie’s bill constituted an “existential threat” to the firearms industry, and clearly gun control activists agree. With federal gun control legislation bottled up in Congress, executive actions and litigation are the most promising pathways to imposing new restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms, and Myrie’s doing his part to aid anti-gun attorneys in their quest to put gun makers and sellers out of business.