USA – -(AmmoLand.com)- The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, or PLCAA, has been coming under more intensive fire since Joe Biden was declared President of the United States, and it’s our own fault.
The PLCAA should just be the PLCA, the Protection of Lawful Commerce Act. The only reason the words “in Arms” were included, was specifically to make the bill a “gun bill,” to help motivate the troops and provide brownie points and bragging rights to politicians and lobbying organizations.
The introduction of the PLCAA was a legitimate response to the lawfare waged against the gun industry, but the legislation should have been much broader, encompassing all lawfully manufactured and sold products. By focusing the bill exclusively on the arms industry, proponents made garnering support for it a bit easier within the gun-rights world – while at the same time focusing opposition – and they avoided generating additional opposition from the powerful trial lawyers’ lobby, which opposed the bill, but didn’t put a lot of effort into their opposition.
They also painted a big, bright bullseye on the back of the law, and that’s what the Biden administration is aiming at now.
The above points were argued by Neal Knox back in 2004 when the PLCAA was first introduced. He reasoned that a broader bill would be somewhat harder to sell, and would run up against some stronger opposition, but that it would also bring in additional allies, and result in better law in the end.
The core premise of the PLCAA is that a manufacturer or seller of a lawful product, which is not defective and was not marketed under false pretexts, should not, and indeed may not, be held responsible for the misuse of that product by a third-party actor.
This should be true, regardless of what the product is. In fact, in most of the lawsuits that have been brought seeking to hold a manufacturer or seller of a lawful product accountable for the actions of someone misusing their product, the courts have ended up throwing the suits out as “frivolous” or unreasonable. But “most” is not good enough, and in the case of firearms and ammunition, the suits were becoming more and more frequent, and were well-funded, often with taxpayer dollars. They weren’t just occasional, random attempts by unscrupulous attorneys taking pot-shots at gun companies in hopes the companies would settle before the cases got tossed. The litigants acted with a clear and coordinated intent to bankrupt the firearms industry, not necessarily through winning, but by forcing the industry to defend itself. Repeatedly.
In any civil litigation, there’s a calculation that has to be made, weighing the cost of the litigation against the cost of settling early. Often the settlement costs are substantially lower than the litigation costs, even if the case is eventually tossed by the judge.
What the PLCAA effectively does is create a pretrial reality check, requiring the judge to look at the case right at the outset and determine whether there is a reasonable claim, or whether it is a case of someone trying to hold an innocent party responsible for the actions of an unrelated guilty party.
This should be standard procedure in all civil litigation. No individual, group, or government entity should be able to weaponize the courts as a way of beating down a person, business, or industry.
Along with the protections of judicial review up-front, before a whole lot of money has been spent on attorneys, and the restitution of those attorney fees if the case gets tossed, there should also be protections on the backside of civil litigation, in the form of restitution of legal fees for the prevailing party. That’s something the trial lawyers’ lobby has opposed for decades because it would cause many of their clients to hesitate before going forward with frivolous and abusive litigation.
The most prevalent talking point from opponents of the PLCAA, As we just heard again from Governor Cuomo in New York, is that the gun industry is the only industry in the US that enjoys protection from civil suits. While that’s not really true, the perception of imbalance is unacceptable, so it’s time to protect all lawful businesses from predatory legal assaults. While we continue to defend the PLCAA, The Firearms Coalition is proposing that members of Congress start working on the Protection of Lawful Commerce Act, shielding all lawful businesses from abusive lawfare attacks based on the actions of unrelated third parties. The PLCA would provide restitution of legal fees to victims of such abuse, both upfront, and on the backside of these attacks if they are allowed to proceed.
We might not have the votes to pass it until 2023, after the next congressional election, but let’s get it started right now.
You can help. Send a letter to your friendly Representative and Senators, urging them to support the Protection of Lawful Commerce Act. Include a copy of this article or a link to it, so they can see how and why it makes sense.
You are the Gun Lobby. Use your influence to get solid pro-rights legislation introduced and passed, even if it doesn’t mention guns.
We’ll have more to say about this proposal soon, so stay tuned.