New York Could Try to Sue Gun Manufacturers Under Bill

June 10, 2021

New York’s attorney general could sue gun manufacturers under certain scenarios under a bill that passed the state Senate and Assembly on Tuesday as lawmakers continued wrapping up this year’s legislative session.

Gun manufacturers could, for instance, face a lawsuit for harming the public by failing to take steps to prevent firearms from being sold unlawfully in New York. A gun manufacturer would not have to purposely harm the public to be held liable, under the bill sponsored by Sen. Brian Benjamin, a Democrat.

Supporters say the bill addresses deadly gun violence that disproportionately affects minority neighborhoods, as well as people who were hurt or killed unintentionally by the firearm industry’s failure to implement safety mechanisms. Anyone responsible for the “illegal or unreasonable sale, manufacture, distribution, importing or marketing of firearms” could be held responsible for causing a “public nuisance,” according to the bill.

Democrats and anti-gun violence groups have decried the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which gave gun manufacturers immunity from lawsuits related to the criminal misuse of their products.

Supporters of New York’s bill argue that gun manufacturers can still be held liable if they violate other laws concerning the sale or marketing of firearms.

It’s unclear, however, whether that argument will hold up in court.

The Legislate passed a package of anti-gun violence bills Tuesday ranging from a ban on possession of “ghost” guns that lack serial numbers, to a ban on the purchase of a weapon by anyone facing an outstanding arrest warrant for a felony or serious offense. Legislative leaders will decide when to send those bills to the governor, who would have ten days to sign or veto them.