U.S. Supreme Court Refuses to Hear NYC’s Case Against Industry

The firearms industry breathed a sigh of relief in early…

The firearms industry breathed a sigh of relief in early March when the U.S. Supreme Court rejected New York City’s plea to continue its lawsuit to hold the industry responsible for the criminal misuse of firearms. The decision, which the court issued without comment, ended nine years of expensive litigation.“We are very pleased by the ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court to not review lower appellate court rulings that dismissed cases based on the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act,” said Steve Sanetti, President of the National Shooting Sports Foundation. “These baseless lawsuits against responsible, law-abiding companies are the type that Congress intended to prevent by passing the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act” (PLCAA).

The city’s lawsuit was originally filed in the year 2000 by then-mayor Rudolf Giuliani and was continued by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. After the PLCAA was passed into law in 2005, a federal judge threw out the city’s lawsuit, overturning a decision by anti-gun activist federal District Court Judge Jack B. Weinstein who had ruled that the suit could proceed despite the new federal law. In April 2008, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that federal judge’s decision, saying the PLCAA was constitutional. New York’s final recourse was to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, but now the highest court in the land has refused to hear the case.

Among the companies being sued were NASGW members Beretta U.S.A. Corp., Smith & Wesson Holding Corp., Colt Manufacturing Co., Sturm, Ruger & Co. and GLOCK.

While the PLCAA allows a narrow exception for suits where the firearms company knowingly allows firearms to fall into the wrong hands, New York City had contended that the gun makers had made themselves liable under that narrow exception by failing to monitor firearms retailers closely enough and thus allowing guns to fall into the hands of criminals. Therefore, the city argued (without success), that the manufacturers had created “a condition that negatively affects the public health or safety,” and consequently were in violation of New York State’s Public Nuisance law.

In addition, the Supreme Court denied review of a similar case brought by the District of Columbia and individual residents of the District against firearms manufacturers. These plaintiffs also hoped to have their case challenging the constitutionality of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act heard by the Supreme Court.

“Common sense and fairness have prevailed,” commented Lawrence G. Keane, NSSF Senior Vice President and General Counsel.

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