Patterns In State Statutes Creating A Civil Cause Of Action Against Firearms Manufacturers

Compiled by Mariah Painter, LGC Legislative Analyst

In 2015, a group of parents of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims filed a civil suit against Remington, their case hinging on utilizing a loophole of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. This “predicate exemption” allows a lawsuit to continue if a plaintiff alleges that the defendant violated a state or federal statute “applicable to the sale or marketing” of a firearm. Remington eventually settled with the group for $73 million dollars at the end of 2022. Remington’s advertisements were particularly egregious, with advertisements for the gun used in the Sandy Hook Shooting saying things like “consider your man card reissued.” Since then, states have been passing laws for or against the rights of citizens to file civil lawsuits against gun manufacturers, and several mass shooting survivors have filed civil suits in states where statutes allow. 

What long-reaching impact will this settlement have on gun manufacturers? 

  • 1st Amendment Ramifications– Is there a governmental interest in curtailing the way that firearms manufacturers advertise? 
  • 2nd Amendment Ramifications- Creating a civil right of action against manufacturers will simply chip away at the firearms industry.

What states are passing laws targeting gun manufacturers and advertising? 

  • New York Senate Bill 733- Prohibits advertising firearms for combat purposes.
  • California Assembly Bill 2571- Prohibits advertising guns to minors.
  • Virginia Senate Bill 1167- Creates standards of conduct for firearm industry members and creates a civil cause of action for violating those standards of conduct.
  • Maryland Senate Bill 113- Prohibits firearm manufacturers from creating/maintaining/distributing to harm to the public via means that include marketing and advertising 
  • Maryland House Bill 259- Same Bill, House Version
  • Washington Senate Bill 5078- Protecting public safety by establishing limits on firearm industry members (includes advertising).

Have other states moved to make it harder for people to file civil suits against gun manufacturers? 

  • Oklahoma House Bill 2647 deems firearms advertising not a public nuisance.
  • Tennessee Senate Bill 0822 limits the circumstances under which a qualified civil liability action may be brought against certain manufacturers, dealers, and sellers of firearms and related products.

Is anything happening federally?

  • US House Bill 2814 is a bill sponsored by Adam Schiff and passed by the House that repeals the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.
  • US House Bill 8570- Directs the FTC to launch an investigation into the marketing and advertising practices of gun manufacturers.

What groups are making this a legislative priority? 

  • Giffords, Brady, and March For Our Lives came together to make this a legislative priority. Anti-gun groups are committed to making it easier to sue gun manufacturers. 

Are there any other high-profile lawsuits happening?

  • After Remington settled with the Sandy Hook parents, Brady quickly filed a lawsuit against Smith and Wesson on behalf of the victims of the Highland Park shooting. The complaint’s purpose is to hold Smith and Wesson accountable for the marketing and advertising campaigns for its M&P 15 Rifle. The advertisements were designed to make it appear to the viewer like they are seeing a first-person shooter video game perspective, and are highly appealing to adolescent males. Turnipseed v. Smith & Wesson Brands, Inc., American Outdoor Brands, Inc., BudsGunShop.com, LLC, Red Dot Arms, Inc., Robert Crimo III and Robert Crimo, Jr. is currently making its way through the Illinois district court. 
  • The mother of one of the 10-year-old victims in Uvalde, Texas filed a civil suit against Daniel Defense, the manufacturer of the weapon used in the shooting. Torres v. Daniel Defense, LLC et al was filed in November 2022, with the plaintiff alleging that Daniel Defense violated the Federal Trade Commission Act, arguing that the company’s advertising on social media and video games was priming young buyers to run out and buy a gun as soon as they’re legal to do so. 
  • One of the women was injured in the Brooklyn subway mass shooting in April. Her lawsuit alleges that Glock “chose to disregard the unreasonable risk of the Glock firearm in its marketing strategies.” The case is Steur v Glock Inc, 22-CV-3192, US District Court for the Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn). She utilized a law that NY passed in 2021 to bypass the PCLAA and make it easier to sue gun manufacturers in the state. https://renzullilaw.com/new-york-governor-signs-law-intended-to-bypass-the-plcaa-and-declares-gun-violence-emergency/ 

 

Further Reading