Last Tuesday, the Supreme Court of Alaska heard argument in an extraordinary case about gun control, federalism, and so-called “tort reform.” At the heart of Kim v. Coxe is the question of how state judges ought to apply a Bush-era law, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which was designed and enacted by Congress to protect gun manufacturers and dealers from lawsuits and liability for crimes committed with their weapons.
When the Alaskan high court (right now it includes only four justices) issues its ruling, it will represent the first time a state supreme court was weighed in on the federal statute. The case has drawn the attention of the Brady Campaign To Prevent Gun Violence, and gun rights advocates, and has even generated an intervention from the Justice Department, whose federal lawyers are defending the constitutionality of the 2005 statute.
The justices will be mulling it over at a politically auspicious time. The legislators who support the Arms Act, a weighty example of federal intrusion into traditional state matters, are many of the same politicians who are desperately opposed to the Affordable Care Act. The same folks crusading for states’ rights and individual responsibilities are the same ones who, through the Arms Act, want to keep gun-liability issues away from state jurors.
Read the rest of Andrew Cohen’s fascinating article at The Atlantic.
Witnesses testified about gun liability legislation. The bill under consideration, H.R. 1036, the “Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act”, was designed “to prohibit civil liability actions from being brought or continued against manufacturers, distributors, dealers, or importers of firearms or ammunition for damages resulting from the misuse of their products by others.” Supporters of the legislation claimed it was necessary in order to protect companies from frivolous lawsuits designed to bankrupt the firearms industry. Opponents voiced concerns that the bill was unnecessary and could prevent legitimate claims against negligent gun makers and sellers.