Manufacturers Liable for Gun-Related Crimes?

The Wall Street Journal Law Blog recently drew to our attention a case decided by the New York State appellate court, allowing a shooting victim to sue the manufacturer, distributor, and dealer of the gun. According to the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, this is the first time a court has held that a gun manufacturer or distributor can be held liable under the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.

The case is Daniel Williams et al. v. Beemiller, Inc., et al. [PDF], New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Fourth Department CA11-2092. The appellate court ruled that the defendants “knowingly violated federal gun laws” by selling guns to a convicted felon who is banned from purchasing guns. The defendants contend they are not eligible to be sued due to the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, signed by George W. Bush, which protects manufacturers and distributors of firearms from liability.

The appellate court ruled unanimously on overturning the trial court’s dismissal of the suit, sending it back to be ruled on in light of the facts of the case.

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