CLAIM: On Thursday, President Joe Biden claimed gun manufacturers have “legal immunity” and pressed for Congress to remove the legal protections.
VERDICT: False. The protections Biden criticizes allegedly flow from the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA). But that Act shields gun makers from frivolous suits, not from all suits whatsoever.
Speaking from the Rose Garden on Thursday, Biden said: “We should… eliminate gun manufacturers from the immunity they receive from Congress.”
“Most people don’t realize, the only industry in America, a billion dollar industry, that can’t be sued… are gun manufacturers,” he added.
PLCAA is very narrow in scope. It shields gun makers from lawsuits in situations where a gun, criminally used, was legally made and legally sold.
In other words, Glock cannot be sued over a handgun that was used in crime if that handgun was legally made then distributed from the factory to a Federal Firearms License holder (FFL), then sold via a National Instant Criminal Background System (NICS) check to an individual at retail.
The text of PLCAA states:
Businesses in the United States that are engaged in interstate and foreign commerce through the lawful design, manufacture, marketing, distribution, importation, or sale to the public of firearms or ammunition products that have been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce are not, and should not, be liable for the harm caused by those who criminally or unlawfully misuse firearm products or ammunition products that function as designed and intended.
However, the protections set forth PLCAA do not shield gun manufacturers from lawsuits over defective goods, criminal misconduct on the part of the gun maker, etc. In other words, the protections in PLCAA do not provide gun makers with “legal immunity.”
The CATO Institute opined:
PLCAA is a common‐sense law. Product liability suits are usually focused on actual manufacturing defects. A good backyard grill effectively grills meat, but if it blows up due to a manufacturing defect, then a tort suit is warranted. A good gun shoots reliably and accurately and doesn’t blow up in your hands. While gun manufacturers should [be] and are liable for guns that malfunction, they shouldn’t be liable for making reliable and accurate guns that can be used for mayhem, of course, but can also be used for self‐defense and sporting purposes.
In the lead up to the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton made gun company “immunity” claims which were similar those Biden is making now.
She said, “So far as I know, the gun industry and gun sellers are the only business in America that is totally free of liability for their behavior. Nobody else is given that immunity. And that just illustrates the extremism that has taken over this debate.”
NPR fact checked Clinton’s statement and found Clinton to be “wrong.”
Lawmakers passed (PLCAA) in response to a spate of lawsuits that cities filed against the gun industry in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Those lawsuits often claimed gun-makers or sellers were engaging in “negligent marketing” or creating a “public nuisance.”
In 2000, for example, New York City joined 30 counties and cities in suing gun manufacturers, saying manufacturers should have been making their products safer and also better tracking where their products were sold. Manufacturers, one argument at the time went, should stop supplying stores that sell a lot of guns that end up being used in crimes.
In response to these lawsuits, the NRA pushed for the law, which passed in 2005 with support from both Republicans and Democrats…The law, however, allows for specific cases in which dealers and manufacturers can be held responsible. So that makes Clinton’s statement technically incorrect.
Clinton’s claim that gun makers have “immunity” was wrong in 2015 and Joe Biden’s effort to suggest such “immunity” in 2021 is wrong as well.
AWR Hawkins is an award-winning Second Amendment columnist for Breitbart News and the writer/curator of Down Range with AWR Hawkins, a weekly newsletter focused on all things Second Amendment, also for Breitbart News. He is the political analyst for Armed American Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @AWRHawkins. Reach him at [email protected]. You can sign up to get Down Range at breitbart.com/downrange.