The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) has been a major thorn in the side of gun controllers. The law was enacted in 2005 in response to a rash of lawsuits aimed at bankrupting the firearms industry, or at a minimum, constantly harassing the industry through lawfare. The 2003 Hollywood movie “Runaway Jury” captures this scheming well. (In typical Hollywood style, that movie makes the firearms industry the villains and caricatures them as expected. I recommend withholding your hard-earned money from enriching the filmmakers.)
Disarming the American citizenry is a long-term project of gun grabbers, so they have still not given up on bankrupting the firearms industry. Getting around the PLCAA is a high priority for them, and the latest fad consists of “public nuisance” and “civil liability” laws that shift the blame away from criminals and pin it on an industry that meticulously follows the law.
A number of states have passed or are in the process of passing public nuisance and civil liability laws in response to NYSRPA v. Bruen; the usual suspects are all on the list: New Jersey, California, Illinois, New York, Washington, New Mexico, and Delaware. Colorado has removed the financial disincentives against frivolously suing the firearms industry. Hawaii is the one of recent states to pass a public nuisance law, and as Cam wrote yesterday, the case is being challenged in Court.
The main thrust of these public nuisance and civil liability laws is to single out the firearms industry for mistreatment. It’s obvious that the premise of these laws is wrong; they’re shifting the blame for criminal misuse of a product from the perpetrator to the industry.
But there is one notable case that blows a giant hole in the liability theory and exposes the hypocrisy behind the legislative intent: the Isla Vista spree killing. For those who don’t remember, here’s a quick summary:
On May 23, 2014, a romantically frustrated involuntary celibate (“incel”) loser decided to act out his frustrations by taking the lives of others. He started by stabbing two of his roommates and a third person to death in his apartment, then drove his BMW to a University of California Santa Barbara sorority and shot and killed three people in the area. Then, he drove around Isla Vista, ramming another seven people with his car, and shot and injured another seven people. The final shameful tally of his spree was 6 dead: 3 by stabbing, and 3 by shooting, not including the perpetrator himself.
If “public nuisance” and “civil liability” laws singling out the gun industry had been in effect in 2014 in California, the gun manufacturers could have been sued for money, but not BMW, nor the companies that made the knives that were used in the spree. The press reported on the makes and models of the guns used in the crime, but to the best of my knowledge, no one knows or reported on the makes and models of the knives used in the crime, even though the number of deaths from stabbing (3) and shooting (3) were the same.
There are too many cases that involve knives, hammers, clubs, bats, cars, etc. The Idaho student murders and the Waukesha vehicular attack stand out from recent memory. The manufacturers of the tools used in these crimes would not be civilly liable under these laws. In Texas, we recently had two back-to-back tragedies with an equal number of horrific murders committed using a gun and a vehicle. Again, if Texas had these laws, the gun manufacturer could be sued, but not the SUV manufacturer.
Public nuisance and civil liability laws for gun manufacturers would be like laws destroying free speech by allowing lawsuits against newsprint or ink manufacturers because someone used a newspaper to libel another person. I hope the Courts see through the scheme and put an end to it.