Enough already: end gun manufacturer immunity

Nineteen children and two teachers were killed yesterday at a school in Texas; below are some of the victims (clockwise from top left): Irma Garcia, Xavier Lopez, Amerie Jo Garza, Eva Mireles, Uziyah Garcia, Annabell Guadalupe Rodriguez.

Clockwise from top left: Irma Garcia, Xavier Lopez,  Amerie Jo Garza, Eva Mireles, Uziyah Garcia, Annabell Guadalupe Rodriguez

Why aren’t the manufacturers, distributors, and sellers of firearms legally liable when their products are used to kill innocent children? Because a federal law called “The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act,” which is codified at 15 U.S. Code, §§ 7901–7903, and which should have never been enacted in the first place, protects gun manufacturers and dealers from being held liable when crimes have been committed with their products. It’s time to repeal that law.

About F. E. Guerra-Pujol

When I’m not blogging, I am a business law professor at the University of Central Florida.
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3 Responses to Enough already: end gun manufacturer immunity

  1. Enrique, I have meant to reply to this blog entry for days.

    What happened here is a tragedy; no one with a brain or heart would disagree with this statement. I am not sure that suing gun makers is the answer (if there is even a solution to such a complex problem ).

    I am conflicted on ending gun manufacture immunity since such as law is a form of rent-seeking. I am all for the government getting out of the way of the invisible hand and allowing firms to function autonomously. But clearly, such immunity is likely the byproduct of gun industry lobbyists. I cannot condone the government granting special favors to the concentrated interest group of gunmakers.

    However, several issues can arise from eliminating this law. This measure can be bundled in with other laws or subclauses that impact gun ownership. Placing myself at risk of committing the slippery slope fallacy, I would suggest that the relinquishment of such immunities could have a trojan horse effect. Even if a subsequent wave of gun control regulations is in the form of stand-alone legislation, the floodgates will open for other restrictions on individual gun rights. The momentum of abolishing 15 U.S. Code, §§ 7901–7903 might spill over into other areas adjacent to Second Amendment concerns.

    My second concern boils down to whether companies like Colt (the original designer/manufacturer of the AR-15; technically Colt’s patent lapsed back in the 1970s, hence why there are so many facsimile rifles floating around), Winchester, Ruger, and so on are the most culpable parties in this incident? It goes back to the logic in the AZ Supreme Court case Torres v. JAI Dining (2021) from November of last year, where the court addressed the liability of bars regarding the damages caused by intoxicated patrons. Common law immunity for “dram shops “was eliminated in Ontiveros v. Borak (1983), but is it reasonable to hold bars accountable for the poor decisions of their customers? A similar analogy can be made regarding gun owners; the individual in possession of a rifle can choose to use it to go hunting, skeet shooting, or for malicious purposes. I feel (in my uneducated opinion) that The gun makers are too far removed from the situation to truly be held responsible for this tragedy. It can also be said that the malfeasance of the police officers at the scene makes a compelling argument for ending Qualified Immunity.

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